Friday, November 17, 2017

"The Upside Of 'The Stoop'"

I have a stoop when I get tired. 

Which is a step up.  (Or is it a stoop down?)

“What is he talking about?”

Okay, I’ll tell you. 

I used to stoop all the time.  Even when I was a teenager.  My rationale was to simulate “Old Age” earlier so when that unwelcome “Life Passage” – and its inevitable symptoms – finally arrived, I would not feel so bad, because nothing, for me, had actually changed.  I would also, from maybe age 13, go “Oy” when I up from a chair.  (Can you imagine a teenager behaving that way?  Well, at least one teenager I know did.)

After regular bodywork treatments from the “Horse Doctor” – so named because he works three days a week on horses, though I have no idea what they call him – my habitual ”Stoop” has been essentially erased. 

Except when I’m tired.  And then, it comes back.  I like the “Straight” Me” better, of course, but, what are you going to do?  You get worn out from your extended exercise, your bolstering discipline erodes, and before you know it, you’re “Stooped Earl” again.  Except this time, it’s real.


As I have ad nauseumly asserted in this venue that, just as every upside has its inevitable downside – and I defy you to offer any reasonable exception – conversely, every downside has its compensatory upside. 

And that includes stooping. 

A fact I was reminded of during my most recent salt-water-adjacent excursion.

I am heading back home, forty-five or so minutes into an hour-long weekend walk by the Pacific.  I feel myself noticeably stooping, but now, nearing “Out of Gas”, I lack the will and residual “core strength” to stand straight.  It appears that one of my vertebra has decided, temporarily, to retire.  It’s in the middle of my back; ergo, “The Stoop.”

The “Stoop” is not ogreishly pronounced, and it doesn’t hurt.  It’s just a fatigued old guy, with a lifetime of bad postural habits, going for a walk.)

And now comes my “upsiding” advantage. 

Trudging doggedly along, my head facing decidedly downward, suddenly, I spot a dime on the ground, lying close to a parking meter.  Maybe it accidentally dropped out of the slot.  Maybe the parking meter snootily rejected it.

“We don’t need no stinkin’ dimes!

However it got there, it was never retrieved from the pavement.

So I retrieved it. 

Hey, it’s a dime. 

Plus, I hate litter.

And unretrieved money is still litter.

Having congratulated myself on my good fortune – and my small but meaningful contribution to cleaning up our streets – I press ahead on my journey.  I take two steps and, not six feet away…

There’s a penny, lying on the sidewalk!

Was this the discarded residue of same inconsiderate person, I wondered, one with no gift for inserting coinage into a vertical slot?  Or had the machine coughed out the penny, haughtily asserting,

“If we are not taking dimes, how do you come back here with pennies?  Empty your wallet of small change, if you will.  But not on my stanchion.”

What kind of a person scatters money all over the street and then strolls casually away?  It’s unlikely, the coins being suspiciously proximate, but maybe it two different “coin droppers”, the second profligate change-waster thinking, “Hey, if that person can throw away a dime, I can easily walk away from a penny.”  Unless the penny was dropped first, in which case it was the “Dime Dropper” thinking, “I see your discarded penny, and I raise you nine cents!”

I know we are discussing “miniscule currency” here.  And I am not pretending to be
Mary Poppins’s George Banks, tutoring his offspring concerning the accumulated “compound interest” value of “tuppence.”  It’s just…

It’s money!

“It’s just pocket change.”

Not anymore.

“I would not stoop to pick that up.”

I would, and I did.  And not because I am already in “Stoop Mode.”  I’d have retrieved it standing straight up.  (If I’d have seen it, which was unlikely.  There, see? – the downside of impeccable posture.) 

I reach down – a diminished distance because of the “Stoop”, and I retrieve the penny, thinking, among other things, “Who knows?  Maybe the dime would like company.”

Having enriched myself with more than, as the cowboy “Snake Oil” salesmen would call it, “one ‘tenth part’ of a dollar”, plus having momentarily rested, contemplating people  literally throwing their money around, and then don’t even bother picking it up, augmented by the rejuvenating benefits of the “Lucky Me” mentality, I have regained my energy, and with it, my previous “Optimum Posture.”  I stride with revitalized vigor back to the house, the “gift” dime and penny, tucked tightly in my appreciative clenched fist.

The “Stoop” is no longer in evidence.  I walk straight and tall as a guard at Buckingham Palace, only wearing a baseball cap, instead of that tall furry thing with the chinstrap.

Feeling no need to be greedy (and now unable to scavenge the sidewalk), I leave the remaining discarded coinage to subsequent walkers, following in my stoop-ravaged footsteps.

No reason not to share the wealth.

(Although how much could actually be left?)
Great News!  My most recent “Major Dad” Financial Report indicates that the show’s “Recouped Losses” since the last Financial Report have been reduced from $4,237,462 to $4,136,289.  That means that, at this rate, “Major Dad” reaches profitability – and my contractual profit participation kicks in – in forty-one years.

Somebody please tell my great grandchildren.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"The Unreliable Narrator"

When you are in my line of endeavor, the possibility kind of shakes you to the core. 

Studies about memory suggest that you can make a person remember things that, in fact, never actually took place. 

Apparently, the brain has the ability to recall things one – for some reason or another – believes to have had occurred, that, in factual reality, did not.

Hm.  Given this understanding, should this blog more correctly be retitled,

“Just Wishful Thinking”?

We are talking about my blogatorial reputation here.  I tell stories from my past I purport to be biographically truthful.

But what if they aren’t?  And I am, in fact, not the assiduous memoirist I think I am but am instead – a racket often disparaged in this venue…

… a masquerading fiction writer?  (The withering “curled lip” to be inferred, but this time, directed at myself.)    

Not long ago, I heard a researcher on NPR radio – I just wrote “National Public Radio Radio” but I am not going back – whose area of investigation concerned the installing of inaccurate memories into an unsuspecting subject’s consciousness.  Why would you want to do that?  Well – one possible circumstance – to enhance the unsuspecting subject’s self-esteem.

Example (with humorous complications, but it’s still a viable example):      


“Hey, Ted.  You know that girl Cindy you had a crush on in high school but never approached?  Well, I ran into her the other day and she admitted that, back then, she’d had a crush on you.”

“’She did?” 

“Yeah.  She said she thought you were cute.”

“I can’t believe it.  She actually thought I was cute.  Hey, it’s not too late.  I’m going to look Cindy up and…”

“You know what?  Just think of yourself as handsome, and leave it at that.”

And from then on, Ted does.  Because Cindy had told somebody he was cute. 

Except she hadn’t.  It was a totally fabricated, surreptitiously implanted, “Confidence Inducer.” 

The NPR researcher admitted she was skeptical such a reported phenomenon was real.  Then, in the course of her experimenting, she recalled a similar situation – though in the other direction – involving herself.

Once, as an adult, the researcher had attended a family gathering.  She had always known that her mother had died in a swimming pool accident.  But now, a family member confided to her that, as a child, it had been the researcher who had discovered her dead mother’s body.

The research was flabbergasted by this revelation.  But she eventually came to believe it.  Suddenly, everything changed.  Her entire perspective was now reflected through the shattering prism of, “I found my mother’s lifeless body floating in the swimming pool.”

A few days later, the family member called her and said, “I just found out.  It wasn’t you who found your mother.  It was somebody else.”

Okay, first thing.  That family member is not getting invited to Thanksgiving dinner.   

Still, there it was.  A personalized example of exactly what she was researching.  The event had never actually taken place.  But a conversation with a misguided family member had her behaving as if it had.

After hearing her story, I remained less than persuaded by this phenomenon.  How can your brain so easily mislead you like that?  And then…

It happened to me.

I was flipping around the channels, when I encountered the tail end of an episode of M*A*S*H, the one in which Henry Blake is going home. 

This is a famous episode, because, shockingly, Blake’s departing helicopter is shot down, and he dies.

I vividly recall watching that episode during its original run.  I recall the various character-appropriate “goodbyes”, the helicopter lifting off of the ground, everyone watching it depart, and then suddenly, it explodes in mid-air.

Except it didn’t.

That’s how I traumatically remembered it.  But it was – belatedly revealed to me – an inaccurate recollection.

That I had seen with my very own eyes.

Except I hadn’t.

Because that is not the way it went down.  (The event, not the helicopter.)

When I watched that rerun, I discovered that the departing helicopter rose from the ground, and flew away safely.  Then, later, with the doctors toiling furiously in the MASH Operating Theater, “Radar” O’Riley comes in, and delivers the shattering news.

The show’s characters are devastated.  But then – as they must – they go back to their operating.

I swear to you, I’d have put money on, “The helicopter blew up before my eyes.”  I can visualize it right now.   The jocular “goodbyes.”  The whirring of the propellers.
And then,


It never happened.

I had remembered it incorrectly. 

Though I had no stake in the matter whatsoever. 

Which leads me to wonder,

What are the chances of
remembering things correctly

When I do?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Rebel With A Pause (One OF My Cleverer Titles, Though It May Not Exactly Be Right)"

Sometimes, I actually pay attention to what I’m writing about.  Not that I am on other occasions “Sleep-writing.”  It’s that, now and then, my mind returns to an earlier post, and I think, “Wow.  I meant to say that.  But I did not mean to say what “what I meant to say” reveals inadvertently about me. 

And then I go “Oo-ooh.” 

And not in a good way.

For example,

I have, on numerous occasions, cast negative aspersions on recent alterations in our communicational process, which now include, as I have before derisively decried, smart people starting their responses with “So…”, and people throughout the “Smart Spectrum’s” voices “going up” at the end of their sentences?  As if they are asking a question?  That question invariably being, “Do you know what I’m saying?”  Requiring the listener to then respond, when their accepted “Level of Commitment” to the encounter was “Just listening.” 

I say, if the speaker requires positive reinforcement concerning the clarity and persuasiveness of their positions, perhaps, before opening their mouths, they should consider a way of communicating their positions better.  Or consider the possibility that they’re wrong, clamming up and allowing me to communicate my positions instead, positions that have never once begged for encouraging validation.

Aside from the now insistent obligation to communicate – verbally or otherwise – that I do indeed understand what they’re saying, the current “Expectation of Courtesy” denies me the alternative of “simply listening”, because,

THE SPEAKER:  “Hey, Jerk Face, I just asked you a question!”

I am also opposed to how this currently accepted speech pattern sounds – that wan, desperately musical “upward veer”?  To me, it sounds like the speaker has suddenly lost their mind, eerily confusing a “Declarative Sentence” with a “Question.”

But then I thought about that.  I have a lot of time on my hands.  See:  Yesterday’s post, revealing that there is so little for me to watch on TV.  With the implied (and accurate) suggestion that I am unable to turn the thing off, nor able to keep it off in the first place.  Television is the default soundtrack of my boredom.  (I’m not sure about that one:  “TMI”?  Or “An evocative turn of phrase”?)

It now belatedly occurs to me that when I complain about unwanted “Speech Music” and unwelcome additions of the word “So…”, what I am tacitly implying is:

“I’m old.”

To which the reasonable response is:

“That’s what we do now.   Get over it!”

I did not deliberately mean to sound old.  (Why would I?)  I intended instead to be  beloved comedian Jerry Seinfeld, offering wry “Did you ever notice?” observations on the way the people today talk.   Instead, the “self-inflicted wound” headline is:

“You see?  The guy is definitely ‘past it’.”

I have no enthusiasm for “past it.”  It sounds too close to “passed away.”

Now, here’s where I defend myself. 

Though possibly irreparably too late.

It is not that I am opposed to contemporary trends in interpersonal communication.  (Though the previous sentence sounds conspicuously stodgy.  Something I picked up in a library.)  And it is not that I am a particular “Language Stickler.”   (Or “Punctuation Stickler”, for that matter; I have no idea if the period in the above sentence goes before or after the quotation marks.  And, by the way, I don’t care.  I am “that casual” about the whole thing.)

Let me say this, in my “This is not about ‘old’” defense:

In the sixties, when everyone around me was saying, “Groovy” and “Chill out”? –

I never once said, “Groovy” or “Chill out.”

In the fifties, when I was a teenager, supposedly desperate to fit in,

I never once said, “Quite the…” (as in “That girl’s quite the ‘Brainiac’.”)  “Or “Knuckle sandwich.”  (Although I did occasionally say “Cowabunga.”)   

It’s not that I was snooty, looming loftily above the conversational fray. 

I was a slang-bucking revolutionary.

Throughout every passing era of “Trendy Talk”, I have defied the “Cultural Dictators” of the day.  Everyone else was saying, “See you later, Alligator”?

I wouldn’t be caught dead responding,

“After ‘while, Croco-dile.”

I mean, what am I – “Sheep”?

Just to say – this is no late-blooming aversion.  I stood up to the “cool jargon” of every generation I ever lived through.  (With the exception of the word “cool”, whose proven durability has survived innumerable “Patois Cycles”, remaining to this day, “very cool.”)

My lifelong crusade was been to spit in the conforming face of “Fashionable Parlance.”   That is simply the way I am. 


Have I inadvertently “blown my cover” again?

Oh no.  I believe I have.

The “Inferred Message” this time:

“The guy’s always been old.”


Maybe that’s true. 

Maybe I have always been old.

There is, however, a bolstering upside to that peculiar proclivity:

I am spectacularly good at it now.