THANKS FOR STOPPING BY

You’ll have to make special provisions for me. I’m not myself anymore. Something’s missing, something important. Maybe I’ve had a stroke, or a brain tumor. It’s probably too late to do anything about it, so I’m not going to waste time and money seeking professional help. I wouldn’t follow their advice anyway. I don’t trust doctors.

Oh sure, I trust them to cover their asses regarding liability by ordering a bunch of expensive, invasive, sometimes painful tests that would get to the bottom of nothing. No, I’ll go this one alone. But if you want to talk with me, I could sure use the company, as my world has gotten pretty small ever since I stopped being able to remember my name.

Didn’t we know each other thirty years ago? Weren’t you the Director of the Institute for Advanced Research and I was your star faculty member, the one who almost won the Nobel Prize but lost out to Dick Cheney and HR Haldeman? It all seems so familiar, yet vague, like a half-forgotten dream. You used to wear pink three-piece suits. On clothing-optional days I would show up for work in the nude, but then so did at least half the staff.

But oh those parties we used to have! The times we’d stay up all night around a campfire on the beach, boiling crabs and occasional house pets. By dawn we’d be coming out of our blackouts, unable to remember what we had done or said the night before. Those who had cuts requiring stitches, or broken bones had to wait for the ambulance, but the rest of us could stagger or crawl back to our vehicles. Yes, those were the days!

Now most of our old friends are dead or institutionalized. That’s what happens when you party that hard for that long. Me, I just got lucky I guess. Of course the fact that I became a celibate monk for almost a decade slowed down the progression in me. Well, to be honest, not really. When it came back after all those years of abstinence it came back with a vengence.

I woke up in a jail cell in Brazil. Brazil! How did I get there? Believe me, it cost me plenty to get out of that one. I’m still paying back the family members and old friends who intervened. Although I speak no Portuguese, the pictures the police showed me of what I did to that young woman haunt me yet. For a while I used the “because I don’t remember it, it must not have happened” defense, but in the time since that unfortunate incident, I’ve had a few blackouts, some of which lasted days. Can you believe I came to on top of a Ferris Wheel in San Antonio? My clothes were all sticky. Fortunately, it wasn’t blood, but pancake syrup.

Endure and thrive

THANKS FOR STOPPING BY

You’ll have to make special provisions for me. I’m not myself anymore. Something’s missing, something important. Maybe I’ve had a stroke, or a brain tumor. It’s probably too late to do anything about it, so I’m not going to waste time and money seeking professional help. I wouldn’t follow their advice anyway. I don’t trust doctors.

Oh sure, I trust them to cover their asses regarding liability by ordering a bunch of expensive, invasive, sometimes painful tests that would get to the bottom of nothing. No, I’ll go this one alone. But if you want to talk with me, I could sure use the company, as my world has gotten pretty small ever since I stopped being able to remember my name.

Didn’t we know each other thirty years ago? Weren’t you the Director of the Institute for Advanced Research and I was your star faculty…

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Brains Don’t Help

Brains don’t help in most situations. In fact, they’re often a liability. People don’t like smart guys, they like sincere, hard-working normal Joes. So if you happen to be extremely intelligent, don’t wear your smarts on your sleeve. Keep them secret and use them in situations where a favorable outcome will make you seem simply lucky.

All the best film actors know this trick. Play stupid and you’ll make the audience feel smart. Let them see you strain to make sense of your character’s predicament. Allow them to see the wheels turning in his or her tiny brain.

Sympathy begins to have a chance when you stop threatening people. Stupid people know this deep-down, and use it to their advantage whenever their intelligence fails them. They affect a puppy-dog look complete with big, watery, sad eyes.

NO ONE SPECIAL

Just ordinary people came, the kind you see all the time. Not especially smart or good looking, they came in droves and stood waiting for something to happen. Only nothing happened. No one told them what to do and eventually they drifted away, going back where they came from.

There was nothing you could say about them that would paint a clear picture. Some were fat, some thin, some young, some old. I got the impression they didn’t think they were “special” in any way. They just wanted to show up in case somebody was giving away something for free, or there was a party of some kind going on. Some fun to be had.

Garden-variety people, the kind who don’t make enormous waves as they wade through the waters of life, are still good for something. They form an audience, if not actors. They’re the customer base for business, voters for politicians, what the Germans called the “lumpenproletariat.” Despise them at your own risk.

I am one of them. In fact, I have hopes of being elected their leader, not because of any special qualities I might posses, but rather because I am so hopelessly ordinary. My subjects are made of the same stuff as is their King.

And as a King, I will not have to wait long for a Queen to appear. Ambitious women abound. One will soon sit at my right hand and if, for some reason, I should falter, fail or sicken, she will be the power behind the throne. This is the way it has always been done, and this method has stood the test of time.

But please, don’t tell anyone. Don’t spill the beans. For my plan to be effective, it must remain a secret.

I promise to rule wisely, and fairness will be by motto. Fairness and enlightened self-interest. You will always know why I do what I do, because my motives will be transparent. I’m in it for me. Simple. Obvious. No deception needed.

I was correct, it didn’t take long for my Queen to appear. Her name was Tiffany, and she was enrolled in pre-dental hygiene at our local community college. Her sister Brandi was already a practicing hygienist and encourage her younger sister to take the leap. Their family was as common as families around here get to be. Mom was a licensed practical nurse, and Dad sold used cars. They lived in a new-ish double wide trailer and kept two dogs that barked a lot.

Tiffany latched onto me and wouldn’t let go. When I told her my plans for us, she got “super excited” and started planning our elaborate coronation ceremony. I cautioned her that we had to pretend to be a bit like England, where the royalty part was merely window dressing to a typical democracy, but she didn’t let that slow her down.

Every time I came up with a manifesto or proclamation, she would protest that it was too complicated. We needed to appeal to a third-grade level and this was strictly junior high. We couldn’t expect to garner popular support by going highbrow. I decided to trust her instincts. She and her family had their finger on the pulse of the nation more than I.

The royalty part would make it easier for our subjects to think of us as the mother and father of the nation. From now on Father’s Day would be my birthday, and Mother’s Day, hers. In an ostentatious display of compassion, we would hand out Christmas presents to be poor, presents that were paid for by taxpayers of our nation. In this way, we were inspired by many of the actions of Juan and Eva Peron, of Argentina.

Eventually, a few academic consultants persuaded us to drop the royalty aspect. Prime Minister or President would have to suffice. Titles like “Father and Mother of the Nation” were acceptable, but nothing more royal than that. We were free, of course, to devise our own ceremonies, rituals, ranks and honors. These would ensure loyalty and give the common man and woman something to admire.

Sure enough, we began to feel the first pangs of royal intrigue when her family members wanted to be venerated by royal rank. So we bailed on the royal thing just in time. Instead, we appointed them cabinet members, advisers, ambassadors. Dad became the Minister of Transportation. Brandy, the Minister of Health. The list increased daily.

The nation had not yet confirmed their desire for us to rule, but we could feel it all around us. Oh, it was hard for us to wait for that wave of popular will that would soon propel us into the “Beige Bunker” as we called the cement fortress that had always housed our executive family. We were not impatient, just eager to be of service. We were overwhelmed with patriotic fervor.

There was, however, a dark side to all this. Even though they kept their sentiments secret, there were those who were not on our side. We had enemies. They manipulated the minds of the elite. Even though their writings could not be understood by the common man, they were surprisingly effective in painting a picture of us as ambitious dimwits. The rumors found their way into print and onto social media. They mocked us!

The arrests came like lightning. Suddenly, we were hauled before a court of people we had never seen before and found guilty of sedition. All I remember is the “may God have mercy on your souls” part.

Our country still used the guillotine, and one was assembled in the main square. As the patriarch of our movement, I was to be beheaded last. From my cell I heard the vast crowd roar several times before I was escorted, blinking from the gloom of the Beige Bunker and into the sunlight.

As I stood on the platform where I was read the official charges against me by a hooded man, I glanced down to see the box that would momentarily receive my severed head. There were the heads of my family members staring up at me in wide-eyed disbelief. Brandi’s mouth was open, as if she were trying to say something. Too late, I’m afraid.

I knelt, and accepted my fate with as much dignity as I could muster. For I was a common man surrounded by my peers who had already decided my fate for me. My garden-variety head would soon join the others in that box. I heard crows calling to one another, and in the distance, a lawn mower. Someone was enjoying this autumn morning. I held my breath.

Worse Than You Imagine, Closer Than You Think

Nobody said it would be easy. The world around us is hardly foolproof. Scoundrels and knaves abound. To pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.

The ones who desire power above all else are the ones you should not trust, but it takes effort and diligence to root them out. They are, above all else, as sneaky and they are persistent. They’re not playing games here. For them, staying in power is serious business. Their only business.

We can pretend not to care, to float above the fray, but the fray will find a way to drag us down. We will be devoured, and the part they find inedible they will spit out. After all, we were simply in their way. What else could we expect them to do?

Squaresville

Those who are already in power like to pretend to be revolutionaries. They say things like “A Storm is Coming,” but they’re pretty sure that nothing is poised to disturb the status quo, and if there were any storm on the way, they would do everything in their power to minimize damage to their status.

Real revolutionaries keep a low profile, hoping that the element of surprise will work in their favor. Having little to lose, they are ready to risk everything when the time to strike arrives.

Squares like to dabble in the arts. It makes them seem less square. When I lived in San Francisco, there were faux bohemian “art galleries” on Fisherman’s wharf, where a vacationing investment banker from Missouri could buy an oil painting of a San Francisco street scene, complete with globs of paint to show that the painting was modern and hip. What they didn’t tell the investment banker was that the painting was produced in a factory in Dafen, China, on an assembly line. Want a rainy Belle Epoque Parisian street scene? They’re cranking them out over there even as we speak.