Pumped for Trump

OK, I’m going to lay my cards on the table. I voted Trump.


Meme generator in same vicinity as rage generator

No, I didn’t. Let me repeat: I did not vote for Donald Jehoshaphat Trump to be President of the United States of America. That was just an experiment to see how you felt immediately after reading it. Pleasure at finding a kindred spirit? Pity? Disgust or even rage bordering on nausea?


Rage so great it can be seen from space

Did you even get past the first sentence (let alone the headline) in order to read this plot twist, or are the saloon doors still rattling back and forth from the speed of your exit?


There’s a not-quote-apropos YouTube moment for everything

The truth is, I voted none of the above, which in the eyes of some Democrats makes me just as bad as the people who voted Nader in 2000. (I voted Nader in 2000.)


And a butterfly flapped its wings

Not long after abstaining from my civic duty, I then had the audacity to hope that it was too early to call Trumpageddon.

This is a view I still hold.

I can read* (*the question is what one should be reading) and observe exquisitely unpresidential press conferences. I see how it looks. Amateur hour with clowns at the head table.

Check please

And yet, I can’t help but feel that anyone this widely reviled by the forces arrayed against him, including a press corps which made him despite themselves and is itching to unmake him (with the tremendous help of unforced errors), and political opponents more concerned about their stalled career trajectories than the nation’s stability, can’t be all bad.

He also seems inclined to want to act on his campaign promises.*

Sure he’s got his bad points, like clumsily showing concern for America’s borders by wanting to build a wall instead of a fence, or having disturbing tendencies to occasionally speak ugly truths (e.g., “for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation…”, “You think our country’s so innocent?”) in between ugly tweets. His every syllable isn’t scripted like a Hillary Clinton’s, and a lot of people like a script.

Setting aside the pesky line of succession, I’m sure we can all think of a hundred other qualified applicants for head of state.


He’ll do

If you’re in the IMPEACH HIM NOW crowd

or the coup d’état crowd


When all you have is a guillotine, every problem looks like a neck

or even the please-report-yourself-to-the-Secret-Service crowd

Tainting the grassy knoll brand forevermore

imagine the almighty turmoil the country would go through if there were a transfer of power in the current climate. Remember that 60 million of your fellow Americans voted for him. They had their reasons, just as you did yours for voting Clinton, or third party, or not at all.

Maybe you have imagined it

Worst. Weather. Ever.

and still feel it’s worth it; maybe you’d be right. It’s something thoughtful people should be able to debate in a reasonable way.

Like a helping of irony with that?

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How To Deal With People You Disagree With

bernerslee
Photo credit: Whoever was standing in front of Tim Berners-Lee

Dealing with people in real life is beyond the remit of this advice column. With any luck you won’t meet many, as live human beings are notoriously difficult to hammer into shape. We shall concern ourselves with replying to those in the splendid human construct known as social media.

You see a contrary opinion online. An itch starts in your brain, impossible to ignore. It must be scratched! But how do you get to it?

newbrain

Through your keyboard. (Real warriors use keyboards, not touch screens.)

1. Take a deep breath, it will oxygenate your blood. Maybe have a nice cup of tea before getting down to work, if tea’s your cup of tea.

2. The time-honoured practice of cracking your knuckles is an over-used trope, but do it if it you’re superstitious. Just don’t overdo it, you’ll be needing those fingers in good working order.

3. We’ll dispense with the numbering system; the point is made that this is a logical process.

Examine the enemy’s argument closely for flaws. (‘Enemy’ is merely convenient shorthand.) You might get lucky straight off the bat: have they even made an argument? Opinions are like bowling balls—they’re bound to have holes in them.

1-eroclp2egkamt0rxg-tduq
one metaphor at a time please

Be polite. It’s a rare skill, often confused with cowardice. It will confuse the enemy.

If this is a factual fray, document, document, document. Be meticulous with your sources and be ready at a moment’s notice to provide links, preferably more than one should your adversary show an indifference to your preferred authority. Bear in mind that both The Guardian and the Daily Mail (two well known mines to go digging for fool’s gold), which both employ professional journalists (not necessarily a compliment), are equally unreliable in matters of opinion, which often masquerades as fact.

Determine if the opinion is theirs or somebody else’s. Have they put in the work to hold it all by themselves? Are you going to attempt to knock them off a bandwagon, or are they standing on carefully prepared ground? If the latter, you may wish to retreat to fight another day, or better yet, accept that perspectives can differ. Even the itchiest brain can learn to accept this as a scratch of sorts.

Look for signs of hypocrisy. Should you find it, consider the labor-saving strategy of allowing them to tie their noose with their own words. Note that any gratification derived may be a private affair, given that hypocrisy is usually vampiric in nature.

1-0zg-rkwanbcyaklgxdtb4w
it’s obvious who’s the fairest of them all

Use spellcheck if you don’t trust yourself, it’s right there on Google. Generally conform to accepted grammatical norms. Teasing grammar Nazis crosses the line into cruelty.

Common mistakes
Don’t say “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” Whoever says this first, loses. While some may see this as politely sweeping away the gauntlet laid down, in truth it is the equivalent of loudly stomping off. There is no need to belabour the obvious.

Whatever you do never announce that you’re leaving the discussion. This cannot be stressed enough. If you want to go, just go. Some warriors are amazed this is even an option.

Refrain from posting immediately prior to a period of being out of contact with the www, e.g., going to a wedding or funeral, a session of lovemaking, etc. I know you pride yourself on your ability to multitask, but should you think up a better comeback whilst indisposed, the itch will be visited upon you tenfold.

If you think your opponent is reading what he or she wants to read rather than what you wrote, well, everybody thinks this. Almost everybody is right. The mistake here is to openly parade your amazement.

Do not ‘Like’ as an 11-dimensional chess gambit, should your chosen media platform offer this or a similar cheesy option. Duel with words, not rancid marshmallows.

What to do if you ‘win’
Disabuse yourself of the notion that you have. Hardly anybody ever ‘wins’, no matter what humble admissions are uttered in the aftermath. The skull is a hardened silo impervious to penetration by even the most sensible argument; while the brain inside may be slammed and partially flattened by the impact of a new idea, it reliably pops back into its original shape.

There are, however, documented cases of people who actually have had their mind changed by a disembodied consciousness filtered through this thing we call the internet:

 

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Bookshelved

What home library would complete without the Bible? I’ve even read it, if speed reading counts. This is what I remember.

tree

OLD TESTAMENT
God clapped his hands and there was light. A few more claps took care of everything else under the sun. Man was given dominion over all the animals except cats. A snake got into the garden and tricksied Eve, the first scapegoat. Everybody moved away because you can’t go home again.

The birds and the bees begat. There were giants in those days, and X-men. Also prophets like Nostradamus, who predicted Hitler before spellcheck.

The world quickly became overpopulated with ne’er-do-wells so there was a flood. Only Noah had bought flood insurance.

Joseph got a nice coat for Christmas; too nice. This angered his brothers, as did the fact that he never had dreams about falling like normal people.

Baby Moses was set adrift in a model boat then grew up to part the waters. Unfortunately he later missed the boat to the Promised Land. First he passed along the X Commandments as chiseled by God, who was pretty high on himself even though things never seemed to go according to plan.

Abraham nearly killed his prodigal son because of voices in his head, but relented and turned him into a pillar of salt instead.

God made Job suffer terribly. The devil made him do it. Job’s response was to say “Thank you Sir may I have another,” so God gave him 14000 sheep and more asses than one man can covet in a lifetime as a kind of apology for being a good sport.

David killed Goliath to show he wasn’t going to be anybody’s bitch.

Moby Dick swallowed Jonah but spat him out again because he preferred plankton.

Angels dance on pins. Because they can. They also leave messages.

womb

NEW TESTAMENT
Joseph believed Mary, bless.
All you need is love, loaves and fishes.
Matthew Mark Luke and John weren’t always on the same page.
The committee of three is making a list and checking it twice.
Hell is other people going around in circles. If you’re going there you probably haven’t been bad enough to meet Hister, but you might be bumping into a few peeps from work.

APOCRYPHA
There are no original sins because they’ve all been done before.

amen2

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Have a seat

catapult

I like to think that after 48 years on this Earth I’ve developed a little patience, but 13 weeks for an armchair, Multiyork? God knows how our lives will have moved on in 13 weeks.

Unfortunately they carried the only chair my wife and I were willing to allow across the threshold into our home, so it seemed we were stuck. Then one of us – it doesn’t matter who – mentioned IKEA. They weren’t shouting, it’s meant to be in all caps.

A quick search brought the Strandmon to our attention. [Google Translate: it means Strandmon.] While it didn’t possess the aesthetic perfection that we had heretofore felt necessary, it had other qualities which we also hold in esteem: it was a fraction of the price of the überchair, and it was available within that highly desireable timeframe of now. It wasn’t just a showroom tease.

Three trains and a bus (evidently the IKEA Bus – “Does this go to IKEA?” every other person asked as they got on) brought us to the big blue and yellow box in Tottenham/London, where thanks to many internet reviewers we were prepared to run a gauntlet of poor customer service.

We tracked down the chair. First we confirmed that we could bear the sight of it, as much of the life of a chair consists of not actually sitting in it, but having to look at it. Armchairs are very susceptible to being ugly. The Strandmon is too curvy and spindly for my taste, but that was better than an overstuffed monstrosity designed for Jabba the Hut.

jabba

When you’re considering a chair, naturally you ponder all of the sitting to come. At a basic level it has to be an improvement over the lack of a chair. Once it gets you off the ground, does it hold you the way you like to be held? Will you have worthy thoughts in it? Read great books? That’s not to say you can’t fall asleep gently drooling in front of bad TV, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire tumbled to the side. It’s just that whatever the future holds, it will include this chair in which you will spend some time pondering the future, an infinite loop which complicates the buying decision.

£195 resimplified the decision. It was available in a nice enough colour+fabric, I quickly divined that the high side wings would cradle my lolling head wonderfully, and apparently it passed the necessary tests back when it was in basic training on how to be a chair, so we got it.

booth

Our first point of contact with an employee was to check it was in stock. She unbruskly and unrudely confirmed it was, then led us most of the way to its location in the warehouse in case we should get lost

raiderswarehouse2

I wrestled Strandmon onto a trolley

ikea1

and after a bit of queuetime discussing how swimmingly it was all going we had our second encounter, a very nonunpleasant cashier who bid us have a nice day. So far we were having one. The direction of the day took a wrong turn when we pulled into the home delivery bay and discovered that our postcode was outside the store’s delivery zone and therefore this particular Strandmon wasn’t going anywhere. We took a number and waited for a refund from a woman who once again failed to achieve targets for surliness, then rubbed our faces in it with vouchers for a happy meal to make up for the disappointment of having to order it online instead.

meal

Update
Once it arrived it fit right in; accusations of curviness and spindliness were quickly forgotten.

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Memories are made of this

Went to Merriments Gardens today, not far from home in East Sussex. Got lots of colourful flower pics, but this one, haphazardly composed, less than expertly exposed, and a bit blurry, was my favourite:

merriments

Visit Marle Place, Scotney Castle and Motisfont Abbey

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The only one who could ever reach me


spotted in the window of Gosh! alongside these

Life on Krypton was Dullsville. People forget that if everybody has super powers, nobody has them. Even Super Dog found nothing special in fetching a stick thrown halfway around the planet. The second most exciting thing that had ever happened was when Krypton exploded. Unfortunately that occurred just as Supergirl was preparing for her first date, which was to be the most exciting thing. Teased at school because of her frustrating inability to even leap over bungalows in a single bound, it had taken forever to convince Super Bobby to think it was his idea to ask her out. As he was ringing the doorbell her father hustled her off in an escape pod. She’d thought it was because he couldn’t stand to see his little girl growing up, and pouted all the way to Earth. When she later learned the truth she was still slightly miffed.

Her dating prospects were no better on her new home planet. Even as her powers matured, her potential dating pool diminished. Only when she set aside her father’s advice to “never put out until there’s a ring on your finger” did she find men willing to take out a woman who could not only beat them at arm wrestling but examine the total package using her xray vision.

Inevitably they would disappoint; if not as lovers, then as fighters. Because if there’s one thing Supergirl liked almost as much as romantic evenings by a fire she had started by rubbing two trees together, it was a good scrap. “My little feisty one,” her mother had called her just before tucking her into the pod and being obliterated. “Your father forgets that I didn’t have a ring when he took my virginity the first three times. I know you’re impatient, but watch your temper. It’s not your most attractive quality.”

Supergirl usually kept her aggression in check by a good workout at the gym when she didn’t have any dates lined up. It was there that she ran into her cousin Superman, bench pressing well below his personal best, Clark Kent eyeglasses cracked from a recent run-in with a parking meter maid he could have stuffed through the coin slot if he had any balls. As a teenager she’d gone out with him a few times on ‘trial dates’ arranged by her father that both had found awkward and, needless to say, romantically unfulfilling by design.

They’d had lunch, caught up on gossip (“Everything back home is still obliterated”), then gone their separate ways – though not before ‘Clark’, as he really did wetly prefer to be called, left her with some advice: “Choose your battles. You can’t fight the whole world.”  Also “Don’t bother, I’m wearing lead underwear.”

Amongst her superpowers, one of the most useful, passed down from her uncle “Hands” (like calling someone who is tall Shorty, thanks to Supergirl after one free-ranging hug too many) was the ability to turn people to stone, and not just with a look surpassing icy. It had gotten her out of many a tight spot, such as when cabbies insisted on being paid. There was an entire gallery at the Metropolis Museum of Modern Art filled with her “Rocky Relationships” installation, the provenance of which she naturally kept from the curator to avoid sticky questions.

It took a blind date with what turned out to be the son of a preacher man to get her to realise the wisdom of Clark’s advice.

 To be continued…

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Year of the snake

2013 years, more if you can count backwards, and where are we as a human race? Still last when it comes to arranging our affairs in ways pleasing to the stars. Even apes plan their days with more care: foraging, grooming, mating seemingly indiscriminately and establishing dominance in accordance with the big picture always at the forefront of their smaller but perfectly formed brains.

Rather than following their example, we often bumble about hoping for the best and managing expectations when it’s clear to those with eyes that see and a limbic system somewhere in that twitching oatmeal that astrology is the only Letts Planner we’ll ever need.

New format: Horoscopes have been arranged alphabetically so you don’t have to lose productivity (a problem in previous years) searching where you fit in the scheme of things.

Aquarius
Fortune favours the bold. Unfortunately that inheritance doesn’t come through. Rearranging your CV from chronological to functional then back again won’t alter your prospects but will bring to light a few typos. Don’t snub networking opportunities in the queue at M&S. Dress for success. Remember to burn the receipts for the arsenic.

Aries
This will be a themed year. Everything of significance that happens in your life will be tangentially connected to everything else. You won’t even have to plumb all six degrees of separation to achieve nagging closure with the hunch that if you don’t send Kate Middleton’s baby a present there will be a certain iciness in the way that she looks at you from the pages of Hello! magazine.

Cancer
A shared horror of grammatical decline may forge superficial alliances but sadly is not the basis for a long-lasting relationship. Apostrophes are fickle; misused semi-colons hardly worth the silent death of respect let alone a broken heart. Explore pluraling with an open mind, spelling anomalies with a forgiving heart: a little naval-gazing isn’t cause for open hostilities. British and American discrepancies will eventually flip around with geomagnetic reversal, so a generous tolerance can smooth out those worry lines.

Capricorn
A tablet computer won’t revolutionize your life. Buy it anyway if it makes you happy.

Gemini
Congratulations are in order. Don’t worry that it wasn’t based on merit, or even particularly fair. The system is rigged, we all know and respect that. Plan your next moves carefully like a chess master. Hold your nerve. It wouldn’t hurt to keep your cards close to your chest. Churchill almost lost the war early on before he learned to stop openly strategising with Friends on Facebook.

Leo
It couldn’t hurt to start working on that bucket list, particularly if it’s a short one. There’s no need to be alarmed, that’s just good advice for anybody. Still. Listen to the man wearing the turquoise socks when he offers advice about visiting Malaysia. It’s difficult to be more specific than that. We all have feelings of impending mortality from time to time: Final Destination wasn’t a documentary. Last minute seat changes skew your karma.

Libra
Go ahead and give the casting agent your phone number. Where would we be without extras? How many people remember the Godfather stroking his cat? It’s the then-unknown Marty Feldman, found wandering the lot and drafted in last minute by Coppola to add the missing edge of menace to the scene, who lives on in our cinematic memory. Your eyes really are your best feature you know.

Pisces
The age-old question of nature or nurture will be settled, so don’t feel too bad about dropping your children from your Christmas card list. (Childless? Don’t adopt either.) Even behaviour taken in context can be actionable. The time for electronic tagging is past. However, if all parties can come to an understanding which respects boundaries and basic dignity, it can also bring you closer together.

Sagittarius
Furniture. Oak or pine? What’s your budget? Soft furnishings may suffer if you splurge. House pride goeth before a fall. Spring is the time for tarting up. Hand in hand to Homebase, you idling in the tool aisle wondering if you have enough of the right kind of drill bits, your other scrutinising the tiling: all is right in the world. This is where the weekends go.

Scorpio
There’s no need to diet or buy smaller mirrors, you can be loved and cherished just as you are. A sluggish metabolism does not need to be mentioned in your profile unless it’s pertinent. Nonmatching accessories show character. Red, yellow, blue – really, all the primary colours, aka “colours in their own right,” work. After all, you’re a person in your own right. Purple’s fine too, unless you’re a man, in which case ermine is also indicated.

Taurus
Which utilities are most important? Pay those first. Candle light is romantic, hot wax also works for some, but don’t move it too close to the bamboo blinds, I know this from experience. Choose providers, if you still have any, by flipping a coin; a monopoly doesn’t have to be evil if it gets the job done and keeps us from getting distracted by meaningless “competition.” So sayeth the savvy soothsayer.

Virgo
Things are looking up. Caressing the monolith may offer additional evolutionary advantages. Put down the bone unless you want an ankle bracelet that beeps.

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Beer of the root

“And her hair spilled out like root beer.”
–Tom Waits

I like root beer. It’s possible this

blueskyrootbeer

is the best root beer in the world. However, I haven’t tasted all the root beers the world has to offer, so it’s also possible there is something better out there. It’s a known unknown.

This can, which is the perfect can for root beer, was lovingly transported from Texas in the belly of a Boeing 777 last year. Slightly nervous about pressurization, I only brought one over in my checked-in luggage. Of course there were far too many volatile fluid ounces for it to be allowed in my carry-on, even though the thought of such a beverage being used as a cover for terrorist activities is beyond the pale.

I haven’t yet pulled the lovely blue tab. I don’t plan to until just before my next visit. I go to Texas about once a year. For my inlaws.

And the root beer.

UPDATE
Having decided that the best root beer is one that I can actually buy on a regular basis, the crown must pass to A&W, a steady fountain of which I’ve discovered is available at a little shop down in St Leonards, named after the patron saint of prisoners, pregnant women, country dwellers, horses, and now root beer.

loonmoon
The wild east. Wait a minute, that’s not from St. Leonards. You mean there’s more than one source?!?

rootbeertower1
Scale model of the tower of root beer I hope to build one day

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Here is an example of fake root beer:

fakerootbeer

Do not under any circumstances accept this sparkling soft drink infused with natural ingredients in lieu of the real thing if the real thing is what you thirst for. It is meant to “transport you back in time to a period when cares were free and times were fun”,

rootbeerlabel

but it will only cause heartache.

BONUS! RECIPE SECTION
In case you want, you know, a root beer float. Admittedly bananas and root beer might not mix. I haven’t tried them together. As ice cream – well, ‘ice cream’ – goes, though, this is great.

Ingredients:
(ripe!) bananas
+ maybe a dash of milk or juice to help them mix better

Directions:
Peel
Freeze
Purée
preferably in that order

banana600

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Hop, skip and jump to the polls

If the British could vote for their next king, it’s likely William would win in a landslide over his tired papa Charles, but the modern game of thrones has certain rules, one of them being you have to wait your turn.


Not going anywhere just yet

We do of course get to vote for Prime Minister, except we don’t quite. We mark our quaint but reliable paper ballots for a member of parliament representing our constituency.

The head of the party that collects the most votes becomes PM and gets to live at 10 Downing Street along with Larry the cat, the current unelected Chief Mouser charged with “greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences, and testing antique furniture for napping quality.”


Only one of these cats is still in office

Unlike the the dragons, I’m not making this up. It’s a position which has been filled since the time of Henry VIII, when I’m guessing the cats fared better than some of his wives.

There are two main parties and various smaller ones whose only real shot at influence is finding themselves in a position to throw in with either the Tories or Labour when neither gets enough votes to hold a working majority. Thus Theresa May’s government only holds power because in the last election the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland offered?—?some would suggest were bribed?—?to prop her up.

For light relief there’s the Monster Raving Loony Party, who I believe have a US branch called the Republicans. I mean Democrats. (Flip a coin.) That party got started in the early 80s by Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow, though he wasn’t actually a peer of the realm and needless to say wasn’t born with that name.


Lordy

An early goal of the Loonys was to abolish the income tax introduced as a temporary measure during the Napoleonic Wars, which sounds respectable enough, if a tad unrealistic for a country obligated to promote the general welfare.

Recent “Manicfesto” policy proposals include augmenting leap years with hop, skip and jump years, allowing anyone over 5 years old who can hold a crayon to vote, and legalising broccoli in Wales. Whatever your view of cruciferous vegetables and the preschool franchise, their promise that “should we be elected will will not initiate any of our policies” is refreshing in its candour.


The Greens have their own party

You won’t be surprised to learn they never got close to an electoral upset, their chief success being ruffling a few feathers amongst the sense of humour impaired. Lord Sutch himself lost over 40 elections, so he deserved a medal for perseverance if nothing else.

Just like in the States, a lot of people here feel that voting is pointless, standing with Emma Goldman in the belief that if it ever really changed anything, governments would make it illegal.


Emma standing with Emma

The more passionately partisan will further burden you with backing the right candidate, preferably the one that’s likely to win, otherwise why bother.

It’s not unusual for a “red” Labour supporter who lives in a “blue” constituency, where a majority are Tory and victory is all but assured, to either just stay home, or if they’re already at home contemplating a bleak field of candidates, spoil their postal ballot, perhaps by giving it to their 5 year old with a box of crayons and threatening broccoli for desert if they don’t choose wisely. Naysayers think this is how we ended up with Brexit.

If you want an example of voting having a gigantic impact, look no further than the 2016 referendum. Never have so many caused so much upset with so few talking heads predicting it. A lot of worried people have been wanting a do-over ever since: a vote on the vote, if you will.


Where’s Screaming Lord Sutch when you need him

While technically non-binding, both major parties are committed to honouring the result, or so they claim. To do otherwise might invite their own extinction.

’Tis once again the season for editorialists to plead with you to do your civic duty. By all means vote: I would suggest Janet Garrett, because my mom likes her, and Rachel Crooks, as her name provides added motivation to stay on the straight and narrow, given what a boon it could be to headline writers. I don’t know enough about any of the other candidates to give an informed opinion.

Now to something really important: Who would win a popularity contest, Meghan or Kate?


Sorry but you don’t get to vote twice

 

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Please Stay

For me, the work of writing has always, in some way, been a fight against oblivion. It’s my way of resisting death and (however delusional) of trying to ensure that a trace of me remains after I’m gone.
William Bradley

It’s inevitable. At some point after arriving safely home on my annual pilgrimage to see my family, I’ll take the short walk to the cemetery lying at the foot of the appropriately dead end street (a good place to run infinite loops as a child, but powerful incentive to go out into the world) and pay a visit to Leslie.

My earliest memory of her was when we were in a play together at school. Actually it was a short dramatization of a poem a small working group of us seventh graders were asked to compose. Impatient with poetry-by-committee, I’d made it my homework to just write the damn thing myself, presenting it as a fait accompli the next day in English class.

I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but it involved a murder and I was cast as the guy packing heat. There’s a dramatically off-kilter snapshot of me holding the gun (perversely innocent in the age of metal detectors beeping at real ones) in the depths of the family archives.

Looking delicate and lovely in her yearbook picture, I’m amazed I didn’t fall for my classmate, but we were just friends, till even friendship passed away for some obscure reason.

She died around the time I was getting married. We’d last run into each other on a chilly winter afternoon on the quad at the nearest large way station to credentialed adulthood. I remember her telling me about a trip to England, where I’d eventually land.

Leslie has since become my guide to the underworld, as it were: those dark mental caverns where I sit in full Rodin’s Thinker mode contemplating my own time on earth. Her long afterlife haunts me and reminds me not to take breathing for granted. The school where we first met has since vanished, leaving a smooth green sward for drive by memories.

I don’t know if we’ve all got a book in us, but we’ve definitely all got an obit. During the last couple of years I’ve taken to reading these short stories, a habit you’re not supposed to acquire until closer to your three score and ten. One day I was surprised to see William Bradley, face framed by copies of The Best American Essays on the bookshelf behind him.

Bradley had come to my attention around the time I started exploring Facebook, incidentally a medium I’d love to hate were I more invested.*

Hey, a writer in Tiffin! had probably been my first thought. Someone I’d like to get to know.

I was impressed that he made it through so much oncological horror without falling into the bottomless pit of self pity I’m pretty sure would be my final destination. We’d both ruminated over Warren Zevon’s last album, but for him it was a soundtrack to nearly unbearable experiences.

I admired his passion for the essay. He really got meta on its ass.

Alas I was never able to eek more than a polite like out of him when replying to his posts on FB, which nipped any possible RL friendship in the bud. Then again, as I later learned, he was going through rather a lot at the time; there was no opportunity for a concerted charm offensive.

I’ve been lucky in life. The Grim Reaper hasn’t collected anybody close to me. Loved ones are all still present and accounted for. I don’t know many people who’ve made it to their middle ages so unscathed.

Were I superstitious, this would be a good time to find a large piece of wood to knock on. The 300-year-old oak that held court in front of our house would be a suitable candidate if an almighty wind hadn’t just brought it down. I’m left pondering its ancient corpse, already sectioned by a tree surgeon but left to bleach in the sun.


happier times

Frankly I’m in wonderment at having made it this far myself. On a few occasions I’ve taken Jack Kerouac too literally and found myself laid out on the road, emerging from limbo.

It’s bad enough losing yourself. The thought of losing others is more painful still.

Fortunately (or not, from my DNA’s point of view), I don’t have children, so never faced the possible horror of that loss.

There is a little heart I fear stops beating, that of the impossibly dear rabbit who shares the house with us. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I’d rather go before him, which hopefully would make him a very long-lived long ears indeed. It’s amazing what pets can do to you.

Childhood dogs and cats and such are typically the unwitting instructors on how to process grief before you’re old enough to read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It’s a lesson I haven’t learned.

Recently I went looking for Bradley’s website and was unsettled it was gone. I don’t know that he would’ve cared, but oddly I did, perhaps highlighting my own thanatophobia by putting myself in the shoes of a dead man slowly being erased.

Thus did I recruit myself as curator, reconstituting and expanding the collection of links that had been in his library. Although this will allow anyone who happens upon the page a chance to help him continue to cheat death, it was in fact a selfish act.

He’s both alive and not, like Schrödinger’s cat, but of course, mostly not.

Now I won’t get to chat with him about newspapers, one of my favourite topics. Or horror movies, one of his.

Or bone up on puns

Or tell him You’re a Wonder was wonderful, joy rides in second person less so. (Maybe not right away, but down the line, after a few glasses of wine, though I don’t drink, it’s just a prop.)

Or that I also fear inadvertently revealing my internal monologue underneath my polite, bland, midwestern facade, which would likely see me punctured with pitchfork holes.

Or that the label “creative nonfiction” makes my eyes roll (more vino please. Tl;dr version, speaking as a creative writing major: let the reader decide.) He’d probably then roll his eyes at me for further and quite seriously informing him that bunnies are so much better than cats it isn’t funny…

Or collaborate in crowdsourcing a mercenary to put a very liberal whupping on Aaron Sorkin.

Or bump into him at Kroger the next time I’m in town and ask if he remembered to put the eggs on top.

Or thank him for making me consider how essay means to try.

Death be not proud, wrote Johnny Gunther’s father to generations of school kids and John Donne to eternity. Appetizer for last supper conversation though that may be, I’ll leave the final words to someone who knew how to wrap things up:

*I’m not even invested enough to use my real name. Well, my current one.

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We are most concerned


Sources say he has an eye on our balloons.

I’m with him.


Release the ravens.


Are you sure you won’t make an exception?


Definitely not pro-life.


Before or after?


This was made abundantly clear.


The word you’re looking for is atrocious.


Come up with a caption using ‘Blair witch’ and win my undying gratitude.


Looks like he made quite a sacrifice for Brexit, too.


Yank go home.


Flag borrowed from the embassy in Australia?


There’s still room.


Tricky.


The ghost of election past.


Some came with cape, some without.


It was warm.
PASTIEFEST, to answer your question. I think.


Parliament Square? In these shoes?


Wanted: grammar nazi. Position is equal opportunity [from here].


I was discussing my mouth organ with Elton John the other day and he said sing us a song, you’re the piano brain. It was sad and sweet and I knew it complete…  but you know, I miss the earth, rocket man. All this science I don’t understand.

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Comment is Free

THE LEEDS LEEK

COMMENT IS FREE
But facts are sacret
Denying but not forever rumours of a possible merger with The Leeds Leek, The Guardian has issued a statement: “If the Leek is spiritually in Leeds, and The Guardian in Manchester, perhaps we could meet somewhere in the middle, like Huddersfield. Eventually.”


Polish plumbers have not yet made inroads into this West Yorkshire market town

There were reactions to the rumour, some more mixed than others. Guardian soulmates were as an aggregate noncommittal, whilst the readers’ editor was reporting strong currents of opinion that the news department would suffer but in a good way.


Students were divided on the issue of whilst

It is thought that a representative of the loss leading national newspaper division within the Guardian Media Group observed the publisher of The Leeds Leek in a first class carriage on the train one day and assumed Leek coffers to be flush with cash and therefore ideal partners. It later transpired the Leek was just passing through.


Nightlife in Huddersfield is scheduled during daylight hours for health and safety reasons

This has been a special educational reprint of an earlier Leek story.

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