Pick Your Battles

You can’t fight on all fronts all the time. Decide what’s important to you and then focus on what you can do about that. Everything else is simply a distraction.

Time spent scrolling through social media is largely wasted. You might as well flip through the pages of a catalog hoping to find some bauble to buy that will make you feel less like a loser. Any effect shopping might have will prove highly transitory.

Especially with the advent of the Internet and cellphones, focused attention is at a premium. Without the ability to concentrate, we can’t expect to accomplish much. The only times during the day when I feel the benefits of one-mindedness are when I’m swimming laps at the pool, practicing the piano, and writing. I wish I could add reading to that list, but most of what I read is skimming, to see if I can find something worth my time to slow down and actually peruse.

Do I Really Need A Challenge?

My opinions don’t matter much. Not even to me, but I can’t imagine anyone else taking them seriously enough to consider their merits. Who cares about my opinions if I don’t?

Things are the way they are, probably for a reason, but even if not, why should that be a matter of debate? Why is our opinion about what actually exists newsworthy? Only the most narcissistic of us would imagine that to be the way things should be.

How infantile. How vain. How completely lacking in proportion. A volcano explodes. How do you feel about that? Would you like to share your feelings with others? Speak directly into the microphone. Meanwhile hot lava runs down the side of the mountain and fans out into the streets. The sky turns back from pumice. “I’m not sure I approve.”

“We’ll be back in a moment with the opinions of other people, some of whom might have understood our question. Others will simply talk to hear the sound of their own voice. Hopefully, they will ultimately feel shame for wasting out time with their nonsense, but even prattle has its place in contemporary discourse, because nobody’s really paying attention. We’re overwhelmed with uninformed opinions. So, in order to further distract you and for your viewing pleasure, here’s a picture of a moose mating with a picnic table.”

The world is ending, but I forgot to notice that fact until it was too late for me to do anything about it. Not that there’s much that I could have done. Forces are at work that are greater than my power to affect them. Like chicken little, I could have sounded an alarm, but nobody pays much attention to my Facebook posts. If I show a picture of a cute kitten, I can get a few “likes.”

The good news is that it’s not my fault the world is ending. Lots of things are my fault, like my lack of gumption, get-up-and-go, and the fact that I had to retire early to a third-world country because I forgot to make much money when I was working. I could look at that as a “bad thing,” but I could just as easily count myself fortunate that I ended up here in Thailand. If I had been any more of a “success” this might not have been a logical choice. I could have ended up in a big house in the suburbs of a Midwestern city, polishing one of my many vintage cars and watching my wife vacuum our vast expanse of indoor carpeting.

My life here might not be perfect, but it doesn’t involve bondage to too many items that need constant maintenance. I remember talking to an Iowa farmer and he told me that he finally realized that he had to maintain over nine hundred tires on multiple machines, cars, tractors, motorcycles, trucks, lawn mowers, etc. And that wasn’t counting all the engines that demanded frequent maintenance, all the blades that needed to be sharpened. No, compared to him I’ve got it easy.

OK, so I’m getting fat. I can’t stop eating donuts, cookies, drinking sodas and it shows. As much as force myself to exercise, I can’t work off all those extra calories. Yes, I’m obviously bored. I need a challenge.

Maybe I don’t need to do more, but rather less. Relax and let things unfold as they are. Nothing really stays the same, but my fears of boredom make it seem that way. Nothing much is required of me. Acceptance is my job now.

Uncle Randolph

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Uncle Randolph made his living as an Interior Decorator, but it was after work that he really let the world know what he was made of.

 

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As a boy, he was largely ignored by his parents, and if it hadn’t been for Grandma Marge taking an interest in him, he would have suffered terribly.

 

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For a while, he tried running a kiddie amusement park, but then had some sort of of trouble with the authorities that was never quite resolved.  Suffice it to say that’s been banned from being in unsupervised contact with children.

 

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We had some foreign exchange students living with us when I was still at home, and Uncle Randolph got along with them very well. His delight in their company was totally reciprocated. The girl went on to be an important diplomat, and once invited Uncle Randoph to visit him at the United Nations building in New York City!

 

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One day, Uncle Randolph simply disappeared. He didn’t show up for work, and all attempts to track him down came to naught.

 

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We got a strange Christmas card from him last year, but it came with no forwarding address. Wherever he is, we hope he’s happy.

My Family

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My older sister Natalie had absolutely no sense of humor, nor any interest in the arts. She was the hardest working scientist anyone had ever seen, and her advances in chemistry helped that discipline progress rapidly.

 

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Our mother Eunice was no dope, but she never applied herself to more than the task of running our home and instructing the servants in their tasks. She envied her daughter the scientist, but never let on to that fact, and never really approved of her daughter competing with men in what was then a man’s world.

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She enjoyed finding excuses to stay as far away from her husband as possible, and her interest in amateur archaeology gave a perfect excuse to travel widely. It was rumored that she also took lovers on these trips, and kept that fact a secret from my father. Everyone else  knew, but apparently he was the only one left in the dark.

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After my parents divorced, she moved to Paris and lived with an acrobat in Montmartre. My father cut her off financially, but she didn’t mind for she embraced the Bohemian lifestyle with the same vigor her daughter took to chemistry experiments.

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Eventually, my father remarried, this time to a younger woman. She was as beautiful as she was vain, and caused him a much misery as she could during their few years together.

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For the last six months of his life, he lived in the basement, creating and painting doll heads. It seemed to give him a great deal of pleasure to do so. The new wife took the remainder of his money and went to Hollywood, where she pursued an acting career, with considerable success.

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I squandered my inheritance in ill-advised liasons with women who were ass attractive as they were mentally unstable. Oh well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

 

A Satisfied Man

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It was a job, but that’s all it was. Not a vocation. No emotional rewards, no feelings of accomplishment. I escorted people who had never questioned anything, who had never had an original thought in their lives, and showed them a bunch of sleepy alligators. Nobody complained or asked for their money back, so I guess I did OK.

 

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When I got off work I cracked a couple of cold ones and watched TV until I started to fall asleep. The next day was no different. I got to work at 1, when we opened, and already there was a line waiting at the ticket office. I knew what my goals were. I was going to save up for a flying car. Popular Mechanics promised that by 1990 they would be standard issue. I just had to keep working, keep saving money, and wait.

 

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Every Saturday night, the wife and I would go to Bob’s All You Can Eat for stewed Troglodytes. They swam in their own gravy and you have as many as you liked. I always left with a full stomach. The wife would nibble off my plate, all the while saying she wasn’t hungry, but I think she put down as many as I did.

 

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If we had people over, we’d show movies of our big vacation from three years ago, the time we went to Borneo, where the men grow tall as trees and the women prune them once a month. Our friends actually enjoyed seeing the same home movies over and over again, because it gave them a chance to rehearse their wisecracks.

 

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Watching somebody else’s vacation photos is usually an exercise in tolerance, but we try to get creative when it comes to ours.

 

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Before we send the gang home we crack out the tuna n’ waffles, which puts everybody in a good mood. It’s the most cost-effective and easy to prepare meal we know of, and that’s saying a lot.

 

 

Fondue Dreams Meet True Grit

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He was a man who loved fondue too much. Not caring much for the company of others, he entertained himself by sitting in his own RV, parked in his own driveway, and listening to his eight track recordings of Wayne Newton’s greatest hits.

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At one time he had been a lifeguard, and he was terribly strict in his control of the pool. No one could enter the pool unless first approved by either he or his twin brother. The two brothers admired all forms of extreme discipline, and in an earlier era would have certainly been enthusiastic members of the Nazi party.

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He met his first wife Darlene at Sea World where they were both working as entertainers. She was every bit as physically fit as he, and the fact that she could entertain any crowd by dancing and telling jokes made her the object of everyone’s attention.

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Soon married, they opened a restaurant which catered to over-eaters who cared more about quantity of what they ate than quantity.

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They had a daughter who refused to learn to speak English, though she managed quite well in four other languages. She loved to disinfect things. Maybe working behind the counter at the restaurant had emotionally scarred her.  Eventually she went on to share her father’s fondness for recreational vehicles, especially ones that never hit the road.

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The Mrs. grew tired of family life and left both husband and daughter behind, moving to Las Vegas, to pursue a career as an exotic dancer. When demand for her services waned as she reached her sunset years, she enjoyed even more success as an event planner.

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Not the Least Bit Ethnic

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She kept pretending to be exotic, from some Pacific Island nobody had ever heard of, but I heard she actually came from outside of Omaha. Her father worked in meat packing.

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I first met her when she was just a kid. Always scraping her knees on my sidewalk and hoping I would invite her inside to perform first-aid. I was too shy to do so. By the time I grew up, she was already on her way to Hollywood.

There, she made quite a splash. She changed her name from Dorothy Klinger to Fifi La Zoom, and ran with a fast crowd that included several young men who once showed promise but amounted to nothing.

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Me, I became a magician, and had an act that toured Lutheran churches. I would submerge a volunteer from the audience and turn her into a chimpanzee. It was strictly an amateur enterprise, and often the chimpanzee wasn’t real, just a stuffed doll.

Eventually, I moved to a former Soviet republic where I got a job as a fashion designer. I was finally in my element! People liked my style and my creations flew off the shelves of many a collective farm variety store.

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Unfortunately, my success aroused envy in the local officials, who I refused to bribe out of a misguided sense of propriety. I ended losing everything, but I got to keep my life.

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I moved across the world to Asia, where I became a hit as a character actor. Strange how life works out. You never know what’s in store for you, do you?

THE BAD NEWS

 

Slime mold going from plasmodium to sporulation

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Tests show that the fungus has invaded every part of your body, even crossing the blood/brain barrier. Frankly, we’re surprised you’re still lucid and ambulatory. Most people in your condition are already on life support.

Maybe your fungus is a more benign variety than the ones we’ve seen in the past. You also seem to lack to characteristic odor of bitter lemon that was so evident in the others who suffered from your condition. Fortunately, most of the time their period of suffering was brief. In one case, death followed diagnosis within hours!

But again, my goal is not to alarm you or make light of your plight. If there were a proven treatment, we would try it, no matter how slim the chances of success. But there is no such treatment. The fungus always wins. We can only urge you to get your affairs in order while you still have the strength to do so.

The fungus is intelligent. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can outsmart it, for it has resisted all treatments and man-made remedies for eons. Like slime mold, it is more than a single organism. It is a community. There is a single slime mold in British Columbia that is almost one thousand square miles in size. We’re not sure about the scope of this fungus yet, but there are signs that it communicates with its own kind, planning and creating strategies that cannot easily be understood or countered. It is one cunning fungus.

Resistance is futile. Acceptance is the answer. If the fungus knocks, let it in. Its clammy embrace may ensure you a better future.

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