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As a generally can-do person, it rather stuns me when I freeze up, motionless. One example: years ago, I was house-sitting in L.A., where friends had relocated. Before they left, the wife said, “Use the car in the parking garage, my grandmother in New York gave it to us—it’s really big!”
I froze up. There was no way I could drive on freeways in some giant jalopy, a lone Beverly Hillbilly. I couldn’t even picture piloting the ship (a 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic) out of the building’s garage, heaving its enormous steering wheel. I explained this to a carless comedian friend from New York, then living in Santa Monica, whom I badly wanted to visit. But: I couldn’t drive the boat. I walked 4.8 miles to Santa Monica.
Another: I was living in a scary part of Chicago, losing it after 9/11 and taking psychology classes (of all things). One day I just couldn’t get into the subway to go home. I crouched into a ball in an alley, phoning a friend to talk me onto the subway (“Lift right knee…”). Prior, I had considered anxiety disorders total hooey. Yet there I was: frozen solid.
Back to L.A. When there was a 6.7 earthquake there, my friend quickly ran for their dog and earthquake kit. His wife, frozen, put on lipstick. How we react to panic is largely animal. It’s what happens a bit after the initial shock, perhaps, that makes us human.
When the potential enormity of COVID-19 first became apparent, all I could do was cook. Others did similar or hid under blankets, fretting and texting. A sage in Bethel noted that when we’re in Survival Mode, our love center shuts down. How terrible. Hence one guy stealing milk out of a woman’s shopping cart at Market Basket.
We’re now over the initial shock. We’ve gotten used to circumstances changing weekly or daily, sometimes hourly. It is time to exit Survival Mode, calm down, unfreeze, and somehow trust that we will transcend this—economically, psychologically, and physically. For some, calming comes from YouTubed church meetings or pagan Zooms. Friends and I hold Facebook Messenger “Wait Watchers” meetings wherein we share perspectives and tips that keep us sane during this crazy-making wait. Mostly we laugh and cuss and that is the real draw. If you’re lapsing into frozen, reach out for help or, possibly, to help. Either works.
I saw high school girls in a parking lot, each seated solo in the way back of an SUV with the hatchback open, each facing the middle (like a flower). They played music and laughed, socially distant. Next a group of women on lawn chairs around a fire pit. They drank and laughed, socially distant. I do “live FaceTiming,” wherein I visit people and we talk to each other thru a closed window or glass door, on our phones. It doesn’t all have to be virtual, right?
Despite the horrors, which are legion, benefits exist. People are slowing down. Reprioritizing. Paying attention. Walking. Feeling. Calling elders. Cleaning closets. Napping. There can be no mass shootings (no masses), minimal war (sick, unwilling, or napping soldiers), little pollution. The planet is healing. Some speculate that the virus was sent by Mother Nature. “I see, you’re gonna keep trashing my forests, creatures, and waters? Ho-ho, take that!” Who knows…the planet is a living thing. Maybe it went into Survival Mode.
So: what do you want to do with your time? When this thing is over, and it will be over, it’s entirely possible we’ll lament, “Where’d all my free time go, man?” Choose wisely. Share laffs. Help. Learn something new. Meditate. Stretch, lit. and fig. Send pleasant thots. Panic not.
Report in as able. Good luck to you and yours, Dear Reader, and good day.
Dear Reader may need an uplift this time of year, even if it’s dark humor. Let’s dig in.
In 2019, a friend’s limb was amputated. Others had other terrible things happen. Stars from all walks of life departed this Earth, including my mommy. This, as you know, is life. We slash through the bad and relish the good as able. Maybe your 2019 was dire, or your holidays horrible. An ER doctor told me, “The holidays bring out the best in some people, but in many they bring out the worst inner toddler.”
I offer from that pantheon of useful knowledge, the women’s magazine, this: rather than making New Year’s resolutions, why not list the good things that happened to – or because of – you in 2019? My own list includes a holiday party I threw last minute that was a riot, and the community chorus I joined that proved a rollercoaster of faltering and delight, one of the best experiences of my adult life.
Or try these: Maria Shriver envisions a garbage can she dumps crap in to leave behind. White Plains, NY wrote: I read my entire 2019 calendar, marveling at all I overcame. Brooklyn said, “One way I motivate myself, which probably exhibits a considerable pathology, is to imagine a medieval courtroom where seated around a table are people from my past who have either thwarted, opposed, or ridiculed me. They watch a closed-circuit TV feed of me as my willpower fails. I hit snooze, drink that next beer, whatever. They laugh at how I’m a failure. That gets me going at what I should be doing.”
If you dig resolutions, how about music? My minister advised, “Music will get you through the hard times.” Take uke or voice lessons. Join a choral group – you learn while the tenors and basses cause mischief. Get a pet so you have a cutie to come home to. Or read Eckhardt Tolle’s A New Earth, a slog in the beginning but with a pay-off that’ll blow your mind. I requested deep Resolution thots from the nutters I call friends. The printable responses follow.
From CT: Quit buying losing lottery tickets and buy an actual winner. Shelburne, VT: 2019 was awful…I’m planning on less grief and more joy. South Korea: Just living one day at a time. Spain: I have never ruminated over these things, nor do I give a toss about where I’ve been or where I’m going; whatever I’m doing in the moment is pretty much exactly what I want to be doing. The Bahamas: Prepare for transformation – think dragonflies and caterpillars! And oddly, from three kind Americans: I’d like to be kinder; more patient; give people a chance.
Boston: Break the mold and try new things. Scarsdale: 2020 is the year of the woman! Burlington: I don’t do NYs resolutions because if something is worth changing, it’s worth changing pronto. North Reading: Declutter! Several women: (1) intermittent fasting; (2) looking forward to the current admin being defeated by the female vote. Fairfield: I hope that people feel they’re good enough…that improvements don’t come from comparing yourself to others or their expectations of you, but rather just…to be. NYC: No NYC resolution would be complete without “weight loss.”
Randolph: Release the old, prepare for the new – a new world is anchoring. This past year the illusions of the ego started dying and consciousness awakened. Let’s envision a new earth collectively and personally; what do we really want to experience in this lifetime? Also Randolph: Speak your truth. Maine: After the worst year of my personal life coinciding with the current state of politics and [skullduggery] among people, I find myself often in a dark and angry place; I resolve to focus on mental and physical recovery, resisting the temptation to become a total recluse in a cave.
Now for the cheery ones. Boca Raton: Year moved like lightning, enjoy the moments! Winooski: Support young people to be engaged and stay positive! Williston: 2020 will be a year of promise and prosperity; I will dedicate time to my passions and incorporate them into my profession. Denver: Speak up, ask for what you want, and accept what comes from that.
I end with these. Cancun: The only resolution I ever make is to try and get by with more. Colchester: I plan on openly laughing at people more this upcoming year. That’s still legal I think.
The good news is humans do feel hopeful about 2020. May Dear Reader’s new year bring happy changes, loving vibes, and that elusive minx: luck. Good day, and good year.
Home delivery of The New York Times...to the manger. (The Times is in blue plastic on the bed of pine.) All the news that’s fit for the coming of the Lord?
A friend snapped this on her early morning walk. I can’t tell if the topmost angel is strolling down the sidewalk or suspended in mid-air. Either is good.*
*Inside tidbit: As I was entering germane “tags” for this post into WordPress, one mysteriously autofilled when I entered the tag, “Jesus learns to read”: Advice to youth in the workplace. Snort.
Life-sized creche, Pleasantville, NY, USA
Thank you, Jesus!
Many people believe the Earth is angry at us. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do consider Earth to be a living thing with a consciousness of sorts. Regardless, there is no question that nature is running amok. Nature seems to be telling us, intentionally or otherwise, to get our act together and stop trashing the planet.
I won’t distress Dear Reader with stats about disappearing frog species, nor debate climate change here; just ask a pro tennis player or competitive skier. I’ll wax anecdotal instead. Feel free to submit your own observations. Here’s the short list.
Coyote. I watched a blonde, unkempt dog stroll up a Massachusetts driveway in broad daylight. Oops, it wasn’t a dog. Pack animals roam solo? In daylight? Coyotes are blonde outside of Vermont? Do they have more fun?
Mice. In August, I stepped on a young mouse in my room. I do hope it was dead already, but from its fresh little entrails I could tell it had been alive…recently. What self-respecting rodent goes indoors in summer? Was it too hot outside for mousey? Came in for the A/C? Same week in Bellows Falls, a feisty country mouse scampered around us in my cousin’s driveway unafraid, then leapt into the manifold of his pick-up. Why?
Rabbits.The new generation of bunnies in our neighborhood is fat, confident, and more prone to lolling than hopping. You walk up to them and they don’t even stop chewing. Rabbits, like horses, have no real defense besides flight. So why aren’t they fleeing? I sometimes charge them just so they’ll become afraid of humans, which they should be, especially my sniper neighb with the pellet gun. Rabbits, by the way, are not rodents, because of their incisors and canines, guts, sex parts, and poo-eating. Who knew?
Birdsect. I don’t know what the heck this thing is, besides a fuzzy pollinator. First, I thought it was cool, and giant for a bee (hence the nickname). But when I went to photograph it, it became…aggressive. What the heck is it?
Hawk-Bunny Murder-Suicide. A dead hawk was in our street, with a dead baby bunny in its clutches. It looked like a cartoon caption contest in The New Yorker. “Wha’ happen’?”
Dragonflies. It wasn’t until we saw an unusual number of dragonflies — again, just sort of hanging out — that a lake-loving friend and I read up on them. Most fly for only a few days or weeks of their lives, the rest spent as aquatic nymphs (like us!). One flew from my friend’s head to my head, back and forth, as we swam in a pond. Was it energizing or sampling us? Collecting DNA to colonize its next planet should this one melt? We felt honored either way.
The animals: why are they unafraid? Do they know something we don’t about our imminent demise? Have they realized we are inferior to them? We are in fact idiots, with our moronic abuse of our own planet. Rather than stockpiling canned goods and ammo for the End of Days, let us try an apology: Dear Earth, We are terribly sorry for our pathetic stewardship. Please know that the people of New England, CO, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Cali get it. May other places wake up. You’re gorgeous. Love, Vermont.
Well. Before the waters turn icy, go jump in a lake, river, or ocean. Cold water is renewing, and you adapt to it quicker than ya’d think. Bracing! Great good fun. Good day.
The night blooming cereus is an ugly cactus that puts on a riveting show once a year. Mine, a selenicereus grandiflorus, blooms for only a single night. Plants more mature than mine can produce many fragrant blooms, the size of dinner plates; their owners throw parties on that night (see: Crazy Rich Asians). Mine gets one bloom. If two, someone invariably knocks one off. So, one.
Imagine my surprise when it began to flower 2 months early, with 2 buds! But immediately: the agony of defeat. One tiny bud was dead by the time I noticed it. The next croaked 2 days later. Was it too hot? Too cold? Did someone—or something—jostle it? This distressing Christmas That Wasn’t affected me for a good two days. There I’d been scheming happily on how to best blog the blooming for you. Next year, people. Apologies.
See two tiny, withered blooms dangling from top leaf of the grandifloras. Then kill me now.
I read recently how having a smartphone is like having a slot machine in your hand. Every time you pick it up, you wonder what you’ll get. You’ve just got to know what you’ve received since you put it down. On your email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Three cherries?
A friend said, “Having this object within your reach is addicting.” I thought she meant that having the Encyclopedia Britannica in hand to answer your every question in the moment was addicting. She meant the slot machine.
There are other effects: texting neck, thumbs supposedly growing larger, people losing the ability to read facial cues, families texting instead of talking within the home, device lights bedside ruining sleep, mysterious waves irradiating our brains…who knows? For sure: teens hiding in their darkened rooms gaming (weird) instead of fleeing their parents (normal) to run around in the woods (healthy).
A woman on a plane told me she’d instructed her grandkids, “Leave those things in the car.” Horrified, they asked, “What will we do?” Her response: Talk to each other.
When people go on such “screen diets,” limiting their hours on devices, they feel freed yet perilously untethered. When we misplace our phones we absolutely panic, the cost and nuisance aside. We are disconnected, lost at sea. An animal cut off from its herd. Danger!
I once asked a techy friend a techy question and he said he knew the answer at one time but no longer needed to commit anything to memory because his External Brain had all the answers. How many times have you looked up a fact on your device and immediately forgotten the answer? Because you don’t need to know it any more.
Your “multi-purpose mobile computing device” has crazy stuff inside: a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer (Wikipedia!). Is all that in our internal brains?
The stats about smartphone use – 3 hours daily for adults, way more for teens – boggle. A decade ago it was 90 minutes. Apps are designed for addiction, with intentionally varying (slot machine!) reward patterns that tease your brain’s reward circuitry. We’re hooked.
With my phone, I mainly communicate – a lot. I’m hooked on communicating. I stress when I realize I haven’t responded to a missive, when the reality is that people send so many that they are hardly waiting for my answer.
If your kid constantly consulted an encyclopedia, you’d be thrilled. That’s the gorgeous Internet. But how many people are doing this? I do searches and read various newses, but mostly I’m texting and forwarding funny stuff. I “Google” with tremendous urgency things like, “Who’s hosting SNL?” or “What does Serena Williams weigh?” Not: “What is a Rhodes Scholar?”
So despite what most impresses about our devices — the world at our fingertips — many use ours mostly to spread joy. Nice! Until: suddenly the day’s over and your free time went down the iDrain. Your room untidy, tasks incomplete…and that class you were gonna take? The bridge club you were to form? All gone. When I’m in Boston I’m texting Vermont and when in Vermont I’m texting Boston when, really, who cares what I’m up to? Why do I have to “report in?” Send a photo? Suggest a restaurant?
I mostly quit Facebook. Because every time I went in, OOPS, there went another :45. I could’ve learned a musical instrument in the hours I wasted reading rampant, silly pandering in there – “Beautiful!”, “That roast looks delicious!” or, the worst, “You look like sisters!” where a woman and her daughter are pictured. Madness.
The line for phone etiquette is ever moving. First, it was rude to talk on your phone in an elevator with trapped others listening to the asininity of your half-convo. Then that became fine, then to be on your phone at a meal. Then to set your child up at a restaurant with an iPad, no earbuds. We don’t look up from our phone when people speak to us. We answer their questions while typing. Lately, I don’t look at them while we’re talking no matter what I’m doing. I first ascribed that to the increased concentration required in your 50s for word retrieval and recalling the names of celebrities. I’m staring a chair leg trying to describe a movie (Ryan … Gosling? Wait: Reynolds … er … O’Neal? Let me check my External Brain.) No, I’m not old; I’m just rude.
What’s the solution? Tweet suggestions to #rudeandgoingblindfromlooking10inchesawayallday. Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, and good day.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @uvgvt. Or by opening your mouth and forming words I receive with 2 sensors on my head.
Greg Bahr — native Vermonter, neighbor, artistic madman behind Bahr’s Stoneworks — has a far-out genius for putting rocks together. Here’s a recent wall of his in downtown Bethel, incorporating old bottles and bones he found on-site. “Are the bones human?” everyone asks. “I’m not sure,” says Greg.
Geez, if only mankind would stop picking the low-hanging fruit and kicking the can down the road in granular, bricks-and-clicks efforts at synergetic pushback 24/365, just think how far we’d have gotten by now!
If you don’t work in a a corporate environment, you won’t find that to be annoying, or even English. You may have been mercifully unexposed to unintelligibly strung-together words that sound important yet have no meaning.
But if you do, and haven’t, the sites below will transfix you…or should I say, their robust, outcomes-based, multi-tiered platforms will integrate your scalable branding:
Here click on MORE BS, PLEASE! for a fresh batch of lifelike BS.
On this gem hit MAKE BS and watch it pull from three Parts of Speech columns.
This is pretty, but will make you insane.
A Brit one offers “A random piece of business bullshit every time you visit this site.” You can even submit!
Happily, some people make corporate jargon Bingo cards before meetings and see who gets Bingo first based upon hearing their words in the meeting. Not sure what the prize is. The last link offers a delicious twist that makes me wish I still attended such meetings. Click Bingo tab at top.