Monday, December 11, 2017

Xmas tree

We went and got our Christmas tree yesterday. As usual, we arrived at the tree vendor location without our stand. This time, I hustled home and got it while my beloved family stood outside in the cold and picked out a tree. They did a good job.

This was just as well. The afternoon had been passed in other quasi family-friendly activities like assembling this credenza that Mary had ordered from CB2. The evil geniuses at IKEA have apparently influenced furniture retailing in many unfortunate ways, first and foremost that many places now ship furrniture in flat packs to be put together at home. I got Graham to help me on this, thinking it would be a good "son-father activity" (his phrase, not mine). In principle, this was true, and it gave me the opportunity to train him on following directions.

That part more or less went fine. The problem is that real pieces of furniture are now designed to be idiot-proof in assembly, using nothing more than a Phillips-head screwdriver. Great. Problem is, the furniture doesn't really come together very well, it feels like it's going to come apart. There was some cursing involved.

Then Graham and I walked all the way around the lake and I explained some of the basics of finance to him, how much money people really need to retire, etc. How much money people in our neighborhood have, and/or need to have. He asked really good questions, it all flowed rather naturally.

By now, I have digressed more than I meant to, and time is getting short. Back to the main point.

So we get the tree home, eat dinner, and then it was time to decorate it. I am all-too conscious of the fact that this is Natalie's last Christmas at home, and I'm not going to pretend I'm happy about it. Far from it. I am sad. I am happy she is doing so well, and know that she will go on to excellent things in life, but I am not excited about her leaving.

After dinner she goes back to her room to work on her essay for Cornell, which we had been discussing over dinner. We get the tree vertical in the stand, put the lights on, all the time telling her it's time to come out and start putting on ornaments.

In recent years, it is true, the kids have shown incrementally less enthusiasm for decorating the tree, I get that. But this year is different. Natalie's refusal to come out was making me grumpy and cranky.

Finally, she came out, cheery, and helped us put the ornaments on. Then she got her laptop and sat on the couch and looked at it. I settled in to the other side of the couch and started reading something, then was sleepy. It was 10 pm already, after all.  All was well, for now at least.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Grey day

It is grey and wet. And Saturday. I continue to try to sell the Subaru. Robert passed on it, as seemingly, will Bobby, but Rob is interested. If he passes, I should probably figure out someone named Bob to call, because I am seeing a pattern. Or perhaps and need an Ulrich or Bartholomew. But this puppy is gonna sell, I know that for sure, because she runs sweet and smooth, with all the money I've put into her. Scroll down for deets.

Mary and I started watching the Netflix documentary about Jim Carrey getting deep into character as Andy Kaufman from back when they made Man on the Moon in '98 or so. It is very funny, pretty intense. But the conceit is pretty wierd. Carrey basically embodies the character for the duration of the filming, and becomes just as wierd as Kaufman was (and, we will note, Andy is one of the three Kaufmans who serves as inspiration for the Grouse). But he's a pretty disruptive force, and he's up there on the set with some pretty solid talent, first and foremost Danny DeVito. What he does is basically unprofessional. If you had actors roaming around Hollywood sets refusing to come out of character, playing pranks all the time, you'd basically never get anything done. We'd have no movies. So, in the end, it is very much about Jim Carrey being a primadonna. We only watched the first half. They may get around to discussing this point by the second half of the movie.

OK. Time to hustle downstairs and get Graham out the door to martial arts.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


I was at an AA meeting recently, and this younger white guy was speaking/leading the group. Heavily muscled, lots of tattoos, crewcut.  I naturally assumed, first and foremost "Trump voter." Then he started talking. He grew up in a rough neighborhood up north, one of "16 or 17 brothers and sisters." That's right, if I heard him correctly, he wasn't sure how many siblings he had. Their grandfather had sexually abused lots of them. Of course there was lots of drinking. If he got in a fight and came home and hadn't one, he got his ass kicked again. Eventually he goes into the military, had a horrific injury, spends a lot time convalescing, drinks, gets in fights....

The details don't really matter that much (for the purposes of this blog that is). And I need to preserve the guy's anonymity. The point is he had gone through an incredible amount of fucked up shit, he went to the military because it was his best path out, then sacrificed a lot on my behalf (even if I don't necessarily believe in the rationale for the war he was in. His story was powerful, he was another human being trying to move forward. His politics didn't matter in that context. It would be interesting to know where he stands, but in there I can't care, and I have to recognize it's all on a continuum.

Then, on Sunday, I was taking Graham to Wal-Mart, I saw a white guy driving a big white truck. Immediately my mind ran to "Trump voter." Then I saw that he had an African-American woman in the seat next to him. The plot thickened.

It ain't simple.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Another day at the office

The Republicans have passed their tax bill, and Michael Flynn has pled guilty and seems likely to flip even further.  On the one hand, there is lots of teeth gnashing and hair pulling on Democrats' part.  On the other, schadenfreude.

Neither is helpful nor what we need. The tax bill is incremental in its changes, and can be reversed. Its just another piece of legislation. If anything, it gives Democrats something very concrete to campaign on beyond just "we hate Trump."

Re Flynn, we have to be careful with our "I told you so"ism, because the Republicans and alt-right have developed a finely-honed game of "whataboutism."

Instead, we need to recognize where we have failed to substantively connect with a broad swathe of voters, and more importantly, be honest about what has not worked in our policies. The latter is, admittedly, difficult, because much of what has been imperfect in our policies (public schools, welfare and other wealth transfer mechanisms, affirmative action) can be legitimately put down to deep seated resistance and not-so-far from the surface racism, sexism, etc.

The arc of history is long and bends mysteriously. We have to admit that we are imperfect and recognize the wishes of the other side, even as we are utterly befuddled by their having voted for that vile jackass. They saw something in him that made all of his faults tolerable, if we fail to recognize that and try to channel it, we are lost.

Remember the exit polls. It was not just white males. 32% of latino men and 25% of latino women voted for Trump. 52% of white women. It blows our minds, but it is so.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Return from the dead

Tomorrow I will return to work, after almost a week of staying at the house, more or less, first with a cold, then with a holiday, then more or less pretending to have a cold.

Things have been piling up. A lead I thought was dead has come back to life. I need to sell a car (to wit, a 2008 Subaru Outback with 96k miles, a new

  1. clutch [yes -- a stick shift]
  2. head gasket
  3. timing belt, and 
  4. front brakes).
    Tell all your friends!
With the possibility of a tax bill passing looming ever closer, there are things that some clients should do between now and the end of the year to protect themselves.

There are leaves on the roof, and in the yard.

Graham and I need to go out and procure tacky Christmas sweater for a themed party we plan to attend in a couple of weeks.

And then we head North. Come to think of it, I need to call Princeton to make sure our plans for stopping in fit with theirs.

In short, many things I have been deferring are piling up and need to be dealt with, which doesn't really excite me. For some reason, I have rather enjoyed lounging about on the couch, reading a mystery novel (Sebastien Japrisot's A Rather Long Engagement), even if, truth be told, I am also ready for this novel to come to a close.

Alright, enough whining. It is almost noon, time to embrace the day.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fighting off the demons of reading material

To my left, an article, almost completed. On an adjacent tab, another. Books on the bedstead behind me. Stacks of New Yorkers to be combed through and discarded on my chest of drawers. Along with other books. The need to read is a constant treadmill for me. Everywhere I turn, something to read.  And yet, I have a blog to feed and tend, becuase ain't nobody gonna write it for me.

I have been fighting off a cold all week leading up to Thanksgiving, and it seems to be 80-90% gone away by now. Which I guess means that I will have to go exercise later. But I have been lying on the couch reading a novel for much of it, and it's a good thing too, because the most vibrant colors of the season are dropping from the trees as we speak. Soon, the trees will be bare, but it has been a great week to spend on the couch looking out at the trees and the lake.

And then hanging with the family. In fact, even as I type, I realize I need to call up Leslie quick and try to make a plan to get together before she and her crew head to the airport, especially because Graham would really like to play chess with his cousin Daniel before they head out. It has been a fine few days of traditional cousin activities: puzzles, card games, meals, silly YouTube videos, hiding behind trees on the family's traditional walk in the woods behind the UNC Botanical Gardens, etc. Just a few hours left. Daniel is a true trooper for hanging with Graham as much as he does. Thankfully, as they age, they are getting closer in age on a relative, if not absolute basis.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving rambles

I had a bunch of frequent flyer miles that I needed to use up for something before they timed out, so they were pushing magazines on me, which are presumably prized still as advertising delivery media to desirable demographics. We ended up getting Inc, Fast Company, and some cooking mag for Mary that hasn't come yet. The first two just started coming yesterday.

I started pawing through Fast Company, and immediately all this stuff from the YouTube and other social media/tech universe was flashing before my eyes (esp. "What's Inside" on YouTube, a big hit), things and dynamics I was entirely unaware of. Then I fired up my phone, and I had a friend request from some "woman in Nebraska" with whom I had one common friend (who appears not to have checked her out). The woman from Nebraska appears suspiciously to look like a spoofed feed of a teenagish guy from Mali with a penchant for taking pictures of himself in front of luxury cars making some sign with his hand which is probably the Malian way of saying "I'm cool."  All of his friends give him likes and commend him with comments like "Cest tres coooooool, mon frere," with various words in African languages interspersed. I won't try to spoof them.

There were also quotes from the Koran on "her" page in Arabic, and links to "Candidates of Paradise of Firdawsi", which appears to be an Islamic propaganda/proselytizing feed. Nothing explicitly terrorist, mind you. But there was an interesting post on there about how there is no airport in Mecca, and how birds and airplanes cannot fly above the Kaaba, because it is the gravitational and magnetic center of the universe, and therefore nothing can fly above it, even if it wanted to. And somebody commented on that, in French, saying how it was idiocy and made muslims look stupid. And then people argued with the commenter, saying of course the Kaaba was the center of the universe....

It is astonishing how much is going on in the world, how impossible it is to take it all in, and adjudicate it all and figure out what's what. William James, I think, was the first to coin the term "the pluriverse." Ultimately we must all recur to some sort of core, bedrock faith in some sort of principles to help us sort it all out.

The fragmentation of the media landscape via social media does not help. It underscores the need for leadership at the very highest level. Blah blah blah

Despite a lingeriing cold, it is time to get organized to go out for the traditional Thanksgiving activities, including walking over by Morgan Creek and the traditional eating.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


We were married in '97. We were headed to Italy for our honeymoon, but had to fly through London and spend the night there. I don't know why, but we did. It was the early days of the internet, before Google Maps or really any good maps, so I called up a travel agent to book at hotel near the airport in London, and she booked me a room. So far, so good.

Or so I thought. When we landed in London, we got in a cab to go to our hotel, and the cabbie hauls off. We go like 10-15 minutes, I'm watching the meter, we're on a big highway, and I ask the guy:  "Isn't this hotel close to the airport?" He responds, "No, not at all, it's downtown."  Now, mind you, I had like 10 pounds or something -- and it was before credit cards were accepted in all cabs -- and I just went ballistic. I broke out all the big words: "Rackem, frackem, b#*!#t" and then some, and the cabby gets really mad at me "Now sir, there's no reason to use foul language here in my cab!"  He was from somewhere in Asia, and was apparently a good deal more religious than I was.

In any case, I calmed down. He hung a uey, took us back towards the airport to another hotel from the same chain where at first they said they didn't have a room and then they somehow figured out that they did. The cabby accepted some combination of pounds and dollars, and my apology.

After Mary went to bed, I went downstairs to have a cigarette, and I noticed that the sign, while using recognizably English words, was barely comprehensible. Something about no parking or something.

The honeymoon was on.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Checking in

It has been an uncharacteristically long time since my last post. In the interim, what has been going on?

  • Fundraisers for Graig Meyer, Floyd McKissick, and the SKJAJA fund
  • A going-away party for Lindsay Graham (no, not that one) of Car Pal and Saxapahaw fame
  • Big Data and Life Sciences event at NC BioTech Center
  • Lake Forest Association annual meeting (it passed bloodlessly)
  • Tennis with Z (no comment on outcome)
  • Several client reviews
Through all of this, Graham and I have maintained our steady diet of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episodes. I looked at my timeline on the most famous of social networks, which shall remain nameless here, and saw that we wrapped up our viewing of Star Trek: Next Generation on January 20.  We have now watched six seasons of DS 9, so 156 episodes over ten months, so one every other day or thereabouts. We have achieved this momentous accomplishment despite deaths in the family, business and pleasure travel, work, school, all manner of impediments. This shows what one can do if one sets one's priorities correctly and keeps one's eye on the ball.

Much of this has been accomplished on our new couch. Recently, Mary put this very soft brown striped alpaca blanket that we bought in support of our neighbor Chadd's non-profit Teachers 2 Teachers International. They do very good work setting up peer-to-peer partnerships between US educators and those in the developing world. You should check them out.

More importantly, the blanket is exceptionally cozy. Graham sits under a grey fleece blanket, and I use the alpaca one, because he is too tall now for us to share one blanket. Often, I start dozing off during the episode, but I still hear the dialog. Also, after Graham leaves, the accumulated warmth on the couch persists, and sometimes I hang out and snooze a little.

Even Natalie, climbing in under Graham's blanket to watch an episode of Stranger Things with me and mom, recognized the exceptional coziness of Graham's set up. This is good livin.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The big stall

Listening to Ben Sasse's book on the way to a conference this morning, began pondering the much-ballyhooed stalling of median incomes since the early 70s. Began to ponder: is this in some sense reflective of an aggregate, homeostatic lack of desire for higher incomes? I.e. if one gets on the "hedonic treadmill" north of ~$75k of income, are we really dealing with broad problem of abundance, not scarcity?

As a society, in the West at least, we generate enough wealth to give everybody a decent life. But we don't know how to balance wealth generation and wealth distribution. People are geared to want more, more, more, both status and wealth. Deciding when you have enough and when to slow down is hard. And then what do you do with yourself? The cultural model tells us to eat better, live more fancily, travel more, but people don't get happier by doing these things, beyond a point. And we haven't discovered effective mechanisms for redistributing wealth via the public sector. Or at least we don't promote them well enough.

Again, we get back to the question of values and leadership. If more public-spirited behavior was validated more broadly and more convincingly, people would do more of it. But these values don't sell stuff.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Flat and round modalities

There is a lot of hue and cry these days about the dangers that social networks pose to the fabric of society. We're all aware that they have positive and negative sides. It is great to see people's kids, learn what they're up to, crowdsource wisdom about need x, y, or z, etc. And hear their reflections on the topics of the day.

The problem is that people only have so much time to put themselves out there. Or, if they really devote time (say, blogging), they sacrifice other aspects of their lives. To have recourse again to E.M. Forster's categories of flat and round characters, everybody is always more or less flat on Facebook or Twitter, certainly in any given post they are. You could take the time to study them over time, and maybe they get more round.

Social networks are of course only one context in which this happens. Anybody who is out in the world interacting with others one a more or less regular basis is alway truncating and trimming their self-presentation to play a professional or societal role: salesperson, politician, project manager, teacher, etc.

And we are all limited in the number of deeper, rounder relationships we can have. You just can't have more than a handful or truly best friends, we each get one mother and father. Maintaining all these relationships takes time.

But social media exacerbate all of these general tendencies.  Even, dare I say it, traditional blogs like this one. There's only so much time, and I gotta hop.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Dominance in the Hierarchy of Needs

These days I sometimes feel like I can't leave the house without tripping over Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which is invoked as a framework supporting just about anything.  According to Maslow, people have basically five kinds of needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, arrayed in a pyramid. Take care of one level, and you can move on to the next.

So where does dominance or conquest fit into all of this? Somewhere around the esteem level, I would reckon, having never actually read the book. But, I would argue, on the macro scale, it is hugely important.

This was brought to mind by an article in the Times this morning about smuggling baby chimps and other primates, which is apparently big business. Rich people and provincial Asian zoos apparently gotta have them, and many chimps are trained to smoke cigarettes and drink beer because, of course, that's just adorbs.

Which is, honestly, one of the reasons why sports can be so great. People get to enact their need for dominance in a forum which is, when managed properly, relatively painless. When fans get too worked up about it, it gets silly, for sure. That's why it would be great if China could get good at soccer quickly. It is fine for them to have awesome divers and table tennis players, but if they could come to have success on the biggest of world athletic stages, it would probably go a long way towards letting them get their macro rocks off. Just sayin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


A friend and client was visiting from out of town last week, and before I put her on a plane she started asking me about what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to go into politics? Write a book? A few weeks back Marvin was around helping us with some painting and he gently prodded me about me letting my musical talents wither. I have, admittedly, been playing more guitar, though it bothers Natalie when she is trying to work.

All of this takes me back to some very early ur-conversation I had with my mom where she cited the Parable of Talents from the Bible, which basically says (as I recall, getting late now, no time to Google, must hasten to work) that we all need to make use of our talents. Sometimes this thought drives me a little crazy, as I am reasonably talented at a range of things and a pretty hard worker, but I know I can't be good at everything given the old 24/7 constraint.

The thing about politics is particularly interesting. I had never even thought about going into politics until maybe 2010, when somebody first suggested it. More people have in recent years. This year somebody even tried to recruit me to run for Town Council, but I felt like I needed to focus on growing my business and being available at home, esp. with Natalie working on college apps. And it being her last year here in the house 😡.

But people keep saying they think I'd be good at it. I wonder at times if I am receptive to it in the back of my mind because it offers another arena in which I could compete with Josh. But Lord knows I am a few decades behind on that one, and really have little hope of competing effectively.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Neither bright-eyed nor bushy-tailed

I awake on Mondays not always refreshed and raring to go.  Part of it is the lack of separation between work and home. Given that my work is holistic and bound up with lots of people I know and love, and also not narrowly circumscribed into discrete functional areas, that makes it hard to walk away from. There are always things to read that are related to my work, and then there are social things that always offer the promise of meeting more people, some of whom might eventually become clients.

It is unseemly for me to complain about this. Nobody pushed me into it. But it is a feature, if not a bug, of my life.

Then there's the fact that we never go anywhere. Partially it's a function of being busy and having great things to do here. Plus we are averse to burning carbon gratuitously. On top of that, where we are is so spectacularly beautiful that we are less motivated than others to leave.

So I am always immersed in my life, which is more or less the same as my work.

Last night Mary came in announcing that Graham's grades were slipping a little. He is getting some Bs, alongside mostly As. On the one hand, we might not want to sweat that.  On the other hand, mostly it's reflective of him having poor work habits and organization. Which means we need to help him improve. This, after all, is what middle school is for. To develop better work habits so that kids are ready for high school.

The problem is that -- given his autism -- it is hard to break him out of patterns. We are used to doing exactly the same things week after week: martial arts, Star Trek. And Lord knows I live to watch Star Trek with the boy. The big conversations about growing up, work habits, etc., are better had outside the context of normal, ritual activities, and certainly outside the context of breaking in on him doing homework, or not doing homework, as the case may be. When we break in on him then, he gets testy. Which I get.

I think I need to take him out to lunch next weekend.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Muttering soul

At the AA meeting this morning I sat next to a person (no need for more detail) who sipped coffee loudly and whispered aloud between sips and was making some sort of clicking sound in the back of his/her throat. It was a little annoying and made it difficult to concentrate on what was being said.

Then I remembered where I was, and that I had no idea where this person was in his/her process of recovery. It could have been a very fresh thing. The person could still be in withdrawal, for all I know. It's a hard fucking thing to deal with. There is high comorbidity between mental illness and substance abuse disorders, of course. And what the fuck did I sound like sitting next to people in my early days? What did I smell like?  Lord only knows.

It was, in fact, a rare privilege to be there.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The internet of us

There is a great deal of hullabaloo and fear around the influence of internet and social media on us these days, and not without reason. New regulations are proposed to let us drill down on who paid for Facebook ads and what else they paid for, blah blah blah, as if that was going to solve the fundamental problems that have caused things to go awry.

I doubt it. People will learn to game that too.

The main, underlying problem is that we aren't well grounded, don't have a shared set of values based even on a broadly founded conception of who the other is. Everybody is scared of rapid change, and we go about expressing it in different ways. Some brandish every larger guns and drive ever larger vehicles, others institute trigger warnings and safe spaces.

Everybody huddles amongst their own, when they should be out talking to others and listening. But that is the hardest thing of all to do, in our era of profoundly assortative huddling, facilitated by online communities and the home delivery of everything.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The inner game

Out on the court with Nathan today, he inquired if I had read The Inner Game of Tennis. "Maybe 30-40 pages", I admitted. "I think that's really all you need," he responded.

Actually, I think the opposite is the case. Where matters of the spirit are concerned, by which I mean anything pertaining to the struggle to control ourselves and maintain equanimity in the face of... whatever stressor threatens to unsettle us, there is a need for near constant reminders of the basic principles of being in the world.

That is why people go to church, temple, bible study, mosque, 12-step group, over and over, day after day, week after week, hearing the same basic truths intoned. There is no new wisdom, but there is an ever-refreshing need for it.

I broke Nathan's serve at love the first game, and then he mine, so the first eight points of the match went to the returner of serve.  And then, at the beginning of his second service game, he won the point, and I swear there was the faintest glimmer of fear within me that I would crumble and lose. I was able to recover and remind myself to do basic things decently, and I beat him 6-3, like I usually do.

In the end, the inner game of tennis is just remembering that each point begins the struggle for self-possesion anew. It reminds me of how Kierkegaarde, at the beginning of one of his books, maybe The Present Age, talks about how each life inaugurates once more the struggle between good and evil, and that therefore there can be no progress in ethics. Just an eternal beginning at the beginning.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

How I roll

I don't know if I have taken the time to complain about the light coming in my East-facing desk window in the morning. It gets particularly bright -- you will not be shocked to learn -- in the autumn, as the leaves come off the trees. It can be rather vexing, and I have resorted to various strategies to counter it:  draping my exterior monitor in a flannel shirt, wearing a baseball cap, putting a standing lamp behind the desk, jacked up on a plastic crate, and hanging a dark shirt from that.

But why don't you just get some curtains, Mr. Grouse, wouldn't that be logical? Indeed it would, all too logical. But I am lazy and generally hate home improvements, which take away time when I might be reading, blogging, napping, watching Star Trek with Graham, doing sports, or learning songs on the guitar. Or even working, which does happen.

I have hit on an even more ingenious solution. An old desk came free when mom's company was sold. First we stuck it in David's office, then he passed away. It was in the corner of the rec room for a while, then Mary had that repainted, and it has migrated up here to the bedroom, where it now sits and gives me a lake-facing desk. Rather nice. Particularly when combined with one of the surplus external monitors, also scavenged from mom's most recent company. All in all, good livin.

One new problem is that there are now a couple of branches that are stopping my view from being truly spectacular in all seasons.  I need to get Rick Serge and his team back over here to take them down, along with that skinny tree they forgot to take out when they were here in the Spring.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Empathy engines

Claire Messud was recently quoted in The Guardian as saying:  "Maybe in 50 years there won't be novels." Coming from someone like her, who has devoted her professional life to the form, and admirably and successfully, that's a sad admission, a, d hopefully more of a call to arms.

I drove to Charlotte last Thursday evening with Natalie and Susannah to see John and Hank Green on tour, in support of the release of John's most recent novel Turtles All the Way Down. If you don't know who John and Hank Green are, Google them. Amazing, inspiring, positive nerds. John wrote The Fault in Our Stars. John's new book is about a teenage girl with OCD. Somewhere in his presentation last Thursday, he talked about how the essential function of narrative art was to inspire empathy for others.

I like it. I studied a bunch of highfalutin theory in college and some in grad school, and while not all of it was bullshit, I think that the fundamental project of theory became in a sense one of conquest and power: to create an all-embracing theory that offered its exponent a corner of reality. To stake a claim. And that got tiring.

Good novels (movies, stories, novellas, even documentaries and non-fiction, etc) do their jobs to the extent that they offer insight into others' thinking and feeling, how they process the raw material of their lives, and help us live our own. They help us slow down and get out of ourselves. To do so is not chopped liver. It's a tough thing to do.

I'm reading Messud's The Burning Girl now. It's her sixth book, closer to a novella than a novel, as if you freaking care. I have been drawn in and am flowing along with it, so it is doing it's job nicely.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Garbage Day

The town picks up the recycling on Mondays, the garbage on Tuesdays. Graham, being the young male in the family, has inherited the traditional male chore of taking these things out to the street. Why we have somehow settled into this traditional gender-based division of labor I can't tell you, but we have.

In any case when he takes out the bottles and stuff from the recycling drawer on Mondays, he on most weeks takes out the plastic bag from the indoors recycling can and emptys it into the corresponding receptacle outside, and then puts the plastic bag back into the can inside. That's how cheap and green we are. We do that till it starts smelling.

But on Tuesdays he's supposed to take the bag out and put it in the garbage can, full of trash. Last night I noticed that he was putting the plastic bag back into the garbage can, having emptied it out in the driveway. Mary is a bit of a stickler for this kind of stuff ("It's supposed to be in a bag!")

So when I pointed this out to him last night, I'm sure with a touch but not a heaping spoonful of reproach in my voice, he hunched forward his shoulder, expelled a breath, and looked at me with a bit of fear, as if I was going to let him have it. I just told him to give me the bag and went outside. I saw there was no hope for getting any of the garbage back in the bag, so I just threw the bag in there with the rest of the stuff.

This is a little bit odd, because, although I might get a little animated about this or that, one thing I am proud of is that I have never struck a child or Mary, and I think generally have managed to keep temper tantrums to pretty dull roars. Of course, my point of reference was my dad who, without being the world's most violent dad, did on occasion employ a little physical violence, and certainly had a major temper that he was not afraid of letting fly verbally, or, say, by peeling out of our driveway dramatically, flinging gravel back into the bushes.

If there's one thing I feel I can be proud of, I've pretty much steered clear of the worst excesses of anger. I think.