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Monday, January 30, 2023

Old new me

 

This is a modified version of a pre-selfie selfie I posted about in August 2019 (Time after time). I have to say, I am kind of fascinated by this version versus the actual version of me posing in my 60s as my 20-something self. I was going to call this post "Reflections" but I used that some time ago when I posted about preferring to take photos of myself in the mirror because it looked more like me to me because that was the image I was used to seeing.

I like this stylized version of my study of my young and old self better because it also seems kinder to my old face (which I have become painfully subconscious about). The funny thing is that I relate more to the old young self than the current self. It is the old young self I see in my mind, not the new old self I see in the mirror.

I am not alone in this phenomenon. When my mother was in her 80s she told me she felt the same way. So it is this nasty trick time plays on you. 

But my age did get me a discount at the movie theater on Saturday night when my wife and I went to see Tom Hanks latest movie A man named Otto. It was a good movie but a bit on the depressing side because Tom Hanks plays an aging engineer who was forced into retirement with the goal of committing suicide rather than endure a life alone after his wife died of cancer. And Otto is also a kind of anal retentive dick who doesn't seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities. He is kind of like a cross between Rain Man and Oscar the Grouch.

The movie had lots of flashbacks to a young Tom Hanks (played by one of his sons who has an incredibly large head). We see his young, beautiful girlfriend who becomes his wife. Unlike Otto, she is likeable. We see lots of the young Otto and the old Otto. And we see Otto's young wife, but we never really see the wife when she ages. 

In between lots of flashbacks and Otto trying unsuccessfully to kill himself, the story revolves around the main character treating just about everyone like crap be still somehow is found endearing to them. He redeems himself by helping everyone (even though he can't stand them), being treated as part of the neighbor's family then then dying of having too big of a heart (please) and leaving them everything. The movie ends with the neighbors driving off in his new truck after grieving his passing for maybe ten minutes.

Tom Hanks has come a long way from his Bosom Buddies days and lighthearted movies like Splash.

Anyway, what struck me about the film (other than how depressing it was) was that the main character was only three years older than me and that I got a senior discount to watch the film. There has got to be something ironic (or poetic) about that somewhere. I just can't quite put my finger on it.

Maybe it is that who we are in our 20s and who we are in our 60s are nothing like each other.



Friday, January 27, 2023

If you mess with the monkey...

 

...expect some feces to be flung.

My Monkey Playing Cymbals has popped up in umpteen of my posts since I first introduced him in August 2004. He is my self-professed muse. He reminds me in his own monkey way to grin and bear it. Though his visage seems more frozen in a grimace than a grin. 

The monkey is a symbol with cymbals that he no longer plays. 

I don't know what that means, but I like how it sounds. 

The monkey sat out the pandemic alone in my abandoned office in downtown Seattle on the fringe of the International District (which has kind of become a no person's land that even Starbucks won't serve anymore). I found him sitting patiently when I returned to the office last August with the primary goal of packing up my old, spacious corner office with lots of windows and stuffing 25 years of memorabilia into 19 moving boxes that were transported to an office that is half as big and is sequestered on the interior of an 11th floor far from any direct light.

When I finally unpacked all 19 boxes into my tiny office I began to understand the people featured on Hoarders. I like to think my hoard has a bit more order than your typical hoarder.  I'm an ordered hoarder. All of my stuff has meaning to me. There are several props that have been used in the various television commercials I've created over the years. This includes rubber hands, a gas mask, a fake man in the iron mask mask and signs from a transporter portal from a shoot in L.A. just before the pandemic.

And of course I unpacked the monkey. He was a bit pissy about being left alone for two years and then being stuck in a box. But I could tell he was relieved to be back on a shelf above my desk and computers where he could once again lord his muse musings over me.

I have to admit that my pandemic posts without the monkey's help were pretty pitiful. I wouldn't tell the monkey that. He has too big of an ego as it is. But I have missed his moronic grin/grimace and his beady little sunken eyes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Still life?

 

So far, 2023 seems remarkably like 2022. Still, other than mind numbing inflation, COVID teaming up with the flu and other respiratory ailments, and (depending upon which expert you hear from) a looming recession, it is still better than 2021 and that dung heap of 2020 when everything spiraled out of control.

The significance for me this year is that I turn 65 in a few months. I finally gave in to the masses of junk mail urging me to sign up for Medicare and enrolled in the first level via the social security website. Like Dante's Inferno, there are several levels of Medicare, each more confusing than the last. Social Security does its best to add to the confusion with lots of legal mumbo jumbo and many links leading to attempts to simplify the language of bureaucracies (which even the Rosetta Stone has a hard time cracking).

It is not that I need Medicare at this point in my life. I am still working and have fairly decent health coverage. But in that not so distant future when I actually do retire I understand I'll need every cent of healthcare support I can get. Still the Social Security urges you to delay taking social security benefits until you are in your 70s so you can maximize the amount of your month allocation. I'm convinced they are actually hoping you delay taking it so the likely hood of you developing dementia and forgetting about it or dying and not collecting at all occur. 

And it is not that I think Social Security will ensure my survival after retirement. Even if I wait until I'm in my 70s to take it, the monthly payment is still about what I now bring home in a week. So I can only hope my 401K survives the bleak markets we are riding. I am sometimes afraid the only cruise I go on after retirement will be on an ice flow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Ancestors

 

Ever since my aunt gave me a few family portraits that had survived the onslaught of years of neglect, I have been kind of obsessed with my great-great- grandfather on my mother's side. I've written about him before. 

Not that I know that much about him other than he was born around 1830 in Ohio, spent some time in a lunatic asylum, made chairs for a living and then became a farmer. He married my great great grandmother (20 years younger than him) five years after he fought in the civil war on the side of the Union. I say fought, but I don't know whether he ever saw any action. He enlisted ten months before the war ended. He applied for a pension in the late 1880s and lists he suffered from chronic diarrhea as a result of his service.

So I don't think he led many charges while he served in the war.

He did manage to father six children including my great grandmother. He and his wife also ended up raising my grandmother after her mother died giving birth to her second child who died at birth. 

There is very little other information about my great-great grandfather other than the sterile census documents that tell me what he was like. I am more than curious as to why he spent time in a lunatic asylum when he was 20. And I wonder why he enlisted in the Union Army when he was 35. What brought he and my much younger great great grandmother together? Why did they end up moving to Boise? How did he and my great great grandmother lose all of their ranch land and leave his many children and grand children with squat?

I mean, there is nothing. My great great grandmother got written up in an early history of Idaho as this great pioneer. He is barely mentioned. All I have are a couple of portraits and photographs where he stares stoically at the camera with this distant look.

Yet still I am fascinated. His blood is in me. He was a civil war veteran even if he spent most of his time squatting in a latrine. He is the reason I grew up in Idaho. He is basically the only patriarch I have. My father was adopted and that part of the family tree is pretty much empty. My great great grandfather is the only one who stands out who wasn't crazy (other than that stint in the asylum) and a wife beater. My mother grew up hating her father for beating his wife and kids on a whim. To his credit, his father was a few checkers shy of a board, too. My mother told me stories of him hiding in the root cellar of my great grandmother's house, tying his underwear in knots so they would be difficult to wash, all because he was jealous of her answering the door to traveling salesmen.

I don't have any portraits of him. I do have a couple of photos of my mother's abusive father, including some of him in his army uniform at the end of World War I. The war ended before he even made it out of basic training.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Another happy new year

 

I am not sure why Father Time is depicted with a scythe. It makes him look like the Grim Reaper without a hood. A quick Google search tells me that a scythe "represents the unstoppable flow of time that will, in the end, cut down all living things."

That is a cheery thought.

My family stayed up last night to watch a life broadcast of the fireworks they set off every year at the Space Needle. It is Seattle's version of the ball dropping in Times Square. I say they set off the fireworks every year, but at the beginning of 2021 and 2022, they were virtual fireworks and light shows. This was the first year they actually had real fireworks since the pandemic. And they allowed people into Seattle Center to watch the fireworks.

I only saw two masks in a sea of hundreds of spectators. The television hosts didn't even have masks on. And they ended the broadcast cracking open a bottle of Champagne and guzzling it on camera. I thought that was against FCC rules. But hey, it was New Year's Eve. 

They were kind of crappy television hosts anyway. One was host of Evening 5, a local human interest show that is broadcast weekly. He interviewed me years ago about an advertising campaign we were shooting at a local photo studio. It was themed "is you commute turning you into a monster" and featured classic movie monsters stuck behind the wheel of cars stuck in traffic. We hired a Hollywood make up artist to create the monsters.

Anyway we got the guy from Evening 5 to do a story about it. He didn't seem thrilled to be there and was a jerk during my on camera interview. When the story aired they had a few sound bites from me but never identified who I was.

Even then, on camera,  I was invisible.

I feel vindicated that the guy has to spend every New Year's Eve interviewing drunks at Seattle Center and I am watching in the comfort of my warm home.

The real fireworks were kind of a dud. They created so much smoke, you couldn't see the fireworks very well or the Space Needle. Oh, and this year they also had lighted drones that were programmed to write things in the sky next to the Space Needle. They would have been more interesting if they turned on the crowds like the drones in one of the last Spider Man movie I saw with my son.

The television commentators talked a lot about us being through the pandemic and back to normal. This was in between segments on the color of 2023 being magenta which coincidentally is the brand color of T Mobile, the sponsor of the fireworks. 

I hate magenta. It is just pink with an attitude.

I do hope that 2023 is a bit more normal than 2020, 2021 or 2022. I have grown extremely weary of COVID variants that are given clinic names that are impossible to remember. At the very least they could use the same naming convention they use for hurricanes and give them names like Frida or Bob. The CDC could even sell the naming rights to people wanting to find just the right gift for their in laws.

I predict that in 2023 I will continue to be a marketing marvel.

Happy New Year to all of my loyal readers! 

Hello, hello? Is this thing on?

Friday, December 30, 2022

Dis chord, dat chord

Country music singersHave always been a real close familyBut lately some of my kinfolksHave disowned a few others and meI guess it's becauseI kinda changed my directionLord, I guess I went and broke their family tradition 
--Hank Williams Jr

I grew up without a lot of family traditions. Oh, we did the usual things white lower middle class families do like decorate Christmas trees, carve jack o lanterns, eat turkey and dye Easter eggs. We had barbecues with the neighbors and occasionally celebrated birthdays together, but in retrospect, it was all generic.

My family didn't come from recent immigrant stock so we had no old country traditions. My grandmother's (my father's mother) furnishings didn't come over on a boat. It mainly came from Sears and Roebucks. Some of it is considered antique now, but none of it was handmade or anything but functional.

My mother came from a family with 12 children. There was basically nothing passed down. At least there was nothing material passed on. They were poor and barely had food to eat. At times they lived in a tent. So the only tradition they passed down was survival and very little talk about what had been a hard life.

A couple of my mom's sisters would bring their families over for select holidays. They had followed in their family traditions of having lots of kids. So I had (and have) more cousins than I can count. My own mother had stopped at three (and one half sister I didn't know about until years after my mother died). My father was an only child who discovered he was adopted after my grandmother died.

So I guess family secrets are part of my family tradition. But I think it falls more into the category of things that no one talked about. Like my mother's nephew (son of her oldest sister) whose wife killed their five year old son (who had been born just a day before me in the same hospital) with a shotgun. The mother then turned the shotgun on herself. She left behind twin babies who later had mental struggles of their own.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Bizzaro world


 I have been coming into the office this week instead of working from my home as I have for more than two and a half years. And although I like returning to the structure of the office it is anything but normal. For one, hardly anyone else is in the office. So it is kind of like those post-apocalypse movies where everything has just been abandoned. 

I walk by what seems like endless rows of empty cubicles and offices. Supplies are piled empty reception desks. Kitchens are full of abandoned cups and plastic containers. Lets not even talk about what is inside of the refrigerators in the break rooms.

I work out in a gym in one of our office buildings. It used to be packed at lunchtime pre-pandemic. Now I often have it to myself. It is kind of nice, but also kind of unsettling.

There used to be coffee and sandwich places nearby. Now most of them are closed. So my coffee comes from a K-cup and it is consumed at my desk.

It struck me the other day that it is very likely that things will never return to the way it used to be. Most people have the option of working remotely and most people have exercised that option. 

We have already consolidated much of the office space we used to have into a couple of buildings. I packed up my spacious office back in August and moved to the 11th floor of my current building where I managed to squeeze 19 boxes of memorabilia accumulated in 25 years of working here into an office the size of small bathroom.

Even my commute has changed. I went from crowded trains that sometimes had people sitting on the stairs to the upper level to cars with a handful of people spread comfortably out with four seats to themselves. I am one of the few people who still wears a mask on the train. COVID shattered our world but now most just ignore that it still exists.

It helps a bit to be an introvert in this new world.  There is less forced interactions and most of them are via video. It is much easier to be detached in a video meeting. 

Still part of me misses normal (whatever that was).

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Playing opossum

 

Nothing like a random filter from Snapchat to inspire a blog post. I'm not even sure what product the opossum filter was supposed to be promoting. But the first thing that comes to mind when I think opossum (not that I think about them very often) is the concept that a opossum will pretend it is dead if it finds itself threatened. A quick Google search suggests that the opossum doesn't actually play dead. The fear actually triggers a catatonic state in the animal so it appears dead.

Regardless, most opossums I've seen actually are dead. Thus the joke, "Why did the chick cross the road? Answer, "To show the opossum that it could be done."

On another random note, I was at a conference in San Diego many years ago and attended a lunch session at the San Diego Zoo. One of the zoo keepers brought in a live opossum and urged us all to smell it. Not sure what the point was, but the opossum did smell pretty darned good.

Now that I've exhausted most of my relevant facts about opossums I'll digress about other random things. Before writing this post, I toyed with writing another post about how I am insecure about whether or not I'm funny. It was triggered by my son's reaction to a Christmas card I made him that said, "All I want for Christmas is an NFT." On the inside was a photo of his cat with a funky grin and a sailor hat. The caption read, "How about an NFC (Non-fungible Cat) instead?" I thought it was extremely clever. 

My son didn't.

Monday, December 19, 2022

It's the most wonderful time of the year

 

It's cold, gray, and threatening snow. COVID 19 has joined forces with the cold and the flu to make sure every one is feeling miserable or afraid of feeling miserable. We are either in a recession, coming out of a recessing, going into a recession or merely skipping along our merry way paying more for everything. The war still goes on in the Ukraine. Trump is still babbling incoherently about being cheated out of the presidency and vowing revenge. He still manages to avoid being held accountable for anything. Elon Musk has made Twitter even more of a shit show than it ever was.

On the home front we are in the middle of a two-month remodel that is heading into its fifth month. We had to have a $700 heart scan on our dog and one of our cats is still at risk of crystals in his bladder despite a $2,000 operation.

I love the holidays. 

On the bright side I seem to have an endless supply of shows to stream. I discovered White Lotus on HBO Max. I have Acapulco, Mosquito Coast, Echo 3 and Mythic Quest on Apple +. I have 1899 on Netflix and Tulsa King on Paramount +. So there is something positive in the world.

I went with my wife to the mall on Sunday so she exchange a sweater she got for my son for Christmas. Apparently it had a hole in it. Anyway, we went to Macy's where I was overcome with the stench of Aramis pouring out of the cosmetics area and disco music blaring at a display near the front of the store. The store was packed with frantic people lining up at cash registers where very weary looking store employees definitely didn't look like they appreciated the spirit of the holidays.

The mall, as one might imagine, did look like the scene of a zombie apocalypse. But instead of people shuffling along looking for brains (which you would be hard pressed to find in a mall) they were jostling each other trying to buy calendars with grumpy cat photos or Japanese overstuffed and unrecognizable animal toys.  It struck me that news of a recession hasn't reached the masses because there was a whole lot of consuming going on.

We escaped the mall and got stuck in traffic bogged down by a snow storm. All I could think was that I wish I was some place tropical. The prospect of a white Christmas appeals to me just about as much as accepting a job as the caretaker for the Outlook Hotel in The Shining

At least I have my iPad and streaming videos to look forward to.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The devil is in the details

 


I've been going to our local Rite Aid for years and walked by the ad on the top of this photo and wondered why it always looked familiar. I finally figured out why (with the help of Google and PhotoShop).

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

White Christmas

 


If you have been following my blog for some time (and god knows there must be thousands of you), you know that every year I decorate an all white tree with blue lights and nothing but Elvis related ornaments. It is a tradition that I started probably more than 25 years ago. 

This year we are remodeling our house and the space where I normally put up the Elvis tree is under construction. So no Elvis tree this year. Sorry Elvis.

But this post isn't really about my Elvis tree or lack thereof. My wife and I were in a restaurant on Saturday night and there were a group of people seated at a nearby table. An older couple were dressed as Mr and Mrs. Santa Claus.  I assumed they had been at a party or working a party. But still, it struck me as odd that they would wear their Santa suits to a restaurant. 

For some reason the sight of a table full of white people eating dinner with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus made me think how white of a holiday the secular Christmas is, especially in the small city I live in. It gave a whole new meaning to the term "White Christmas."

I had never thought of it that way before. I'd never considered that people of color had to put up with a white Santa, white Virgin Mary, white baby Jesus and white angels. This is all pretty ironic considering the event Christmas is supposed to be commemorating took place in a part of the world where I seriously doubt most of the people were white except for the Romans.

And Santa Claus really doesn't figure into the whole nativity aspect of Christmas anyway. He is part of marketing efforts to try and work a profit angle into the holiday. So as holiday spirited people think they are when they wear stupid Santa hats, they are really just feeding into the commercial spirit that really fuels White Christmas in the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I usually get caught up in the non-religious hype of the holidays myself. I'd put up lights, listen to Christmas music and decorate my Elvis tree (and a more traditional tree) all in the spirit of the holidays. Generally I would attribute it to being for the kids. But deep down, it gave me comfort because this is something I grew up doing. But even as a kid, I knew Christmas was something that was cobbled together from lots of different traditions from many cultures and beliefs. I knew that Jesus wasn't really born on December 25. It was just an arbitrary date that likely coincided with some holiday the druids celebrated when the Romans conquered them.

I knew as a kid that Santa didn't exist. But I put up my stocking and accepted the jumbo Sugar Daddy bar and boxes of Life Savors. I opened my presents and experienced the post present depression of being more enthralled with the thought of presents than the actual presents themselves.

But still I grew up with a White Christmas that reflected my privilege of being a white person in America. So now I can't listen to Bing Crosby or Elvis dreaming about a white Christmas in the same way anymore.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Day of the dread

 


The Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican holiday to honor the dead. It is a time of remembrance, because the memory symbolically keeps the dead person alive.

Keeping our memory alive after we die seems to be a pretty common thread throughout human history. Kings build pyramids to be remembered. There are statues, portraits, tombstones, photos, memoires, and, of course, blogs. These are all attempts to keep memories alive after a person dies. But for the most part, I think they fail. Shoot, how many times have I railed on how I am invisible and forgotten while alive. I can only imagine what it will be like when I'm dead.

I think we dread death because we can't imagine becoming nothing. I think of the hundreds if not thousands of people I've met in my life through school or work. And as much as I enjoy their company when they are around, once they move on, they are gone. Very few stay in touch. Some even die and you have a twinge of sadness, but then everything moves on. 

But where is is moving on to? Last night I watched a movie on Showtime called After.Life. It stars Liam Neeson as a mortician who may or may not have the ability to communicate with the newly dead people he is preparing for viewings at funerals. One of those is Christina Ricci who may or may not be dead. The movie is pretty good at keeping you guessing until the end (no pun intended). But although the movie dealt with helping people to move on, it also did give any idea where you would move on to.

Of course, the reason is that the only way you can know where you move on to is by moving on to it. And despite what Tik Tok would like you to believe, once you have moved on, there isn't a social media channel for the dead to share posts with the living. If there was Zuckerberg would have exploited it by now and it would be called something like Dead Line or After Thoughts. There would also be controversies over all of the marketing information that was being harvested from the platform and companies would be figuring out ways to sell stuff to dead people.

Like every other social media platforms the one for the dead would also be rife with live people pretending to be dead and dead people pretending to be live. So basically you still couldn't trust anything that was posted. 

But there is no such social media platform and we don't really have anyway to know what happens after we die. Well, except for Ouija boards, and they open up a whole new can of worms.