Stage Left

A U.S. president named Donald? That’s a first.

History records no presidents Donald Washington, Don Lincoln or Donnie Roosevelt.

It is also worth noting that there have also been no presidents with the last names of Sutherland, Rickles or Duck.
Another fact: The first time President Trump signs a piece of legislation, he’ll be the first in eight years to do it right-handed. Not a fascinating fact. Just a fact.

In fact, in a further factual fact, not only is Barack Obama left-handed—but same with Bill Clinton and H.W. Bush before him. Gerald Ford was left-handed too. And perhaps left-footed.

Ronald Reagan was left-handed, but learned to write with his right—as did Harry Truman.
That all seems a bit odd—especially since perhaps only 10 percent of people in this country are left-handed—but more than half of recent presidents have been so.

Maybe it is because left-handers have to persevere more than the rest of us—and it translates into working harder to achieve. Or maybe left-handed presidential candidates put together stronger ad campaigns—who knows?

But history suggests that if many of us—as kids—were told that someday we too could grow up to become president—we should have also been told to point, write, eat, throw, wave and scratch with our left hand.

Somewhere among my childhood stuff lies an old left-hander baseball glove—an Eddie Mathews autographed model—that I wore until I was around five years old. Not just when I played baseball—I mean I wore it all the time. The mitt is shriveled now—the size of a baby mitten—from being in the bathtub so often.

But one day without explanation, parents, teachers and coaches stepped in and changed me over to being a right-hander. One of their intended reasons: To save me from having a higher risk of psychosis. Whew! Without that intervention—instead of writing these words right now—I might be in the basement wiring up a homemade bomb.
Still, that wiring job is easier when you are a right-hander. That’s because everything from tools to musical instruments; cameras to computer trackballs—are all made for people working with their right hands. In fact, my left-handed baby brother got out of cutting the lawn for years claiming we had a right-handed mower.

Perhaps centuries ago—during the birth of fake news—the rumor started going around that left-handedness was caused by some kind of traumatic birth incident. After that, the superstition mill went into high gear:

Evil spirits are often portrayed as being over someone’s left shoulder—thus the practice of throwing salt over that side to ward them off. (When salt is not available, try ground kale. Evil spirits hate that stuff as much as the rest of us.)
If you get out of bed with the left foot, it is going to be a bad day. Especially if the left foot steps directly in something the dog dropped overnight.

If you hear the sound of a cuckoo from your right, it will be a lucky year; from the left side, unlucky. But at least you’ll know your old clock is working.

An itchy right palm means you’re about to receive money; an itchy left means you’re going to spend money—probably on ointment.
Some history books suggest that lefties stood a better chance of being tortured during The Spanish Inquisition—especially the inquisitive.

And modern studies show that left-handers are better at math, architecture and spatial understanding. Right-handers are better at gargling. (This last thing is really more of a personal observation .)
Major league baseball teams will generally tolerate having a left-hander or two on their rosters—but only if the player agrees to be called a ‘southpaw.’ Such players have had names like “Lefty” Gomez, “Lefty” Grove and “Lefty” O’Doul. In a few cases they have also been named “Babe”, “Spaceman” and “Goose.”

There have been no known players named “Righty”—except for a shortstop in the 1930’s—“Far Righty”Jones—who was believed to be a Nazi.

I guess I’ll always wonder if I might have been smarter, richer and more attractive if I had remained a left-hander all those years ago. After all, Einstein, Darwin, Isaac Newton, Oprah, Desmond Tutu and Bill Gates—were or are all left-handers.

However, the Boston Strangler was also left-handed—although most people can agree that the truly top-notch stranglers are usually ambidextrous.

Well, I guess I better wrap this up. It’s dinnertime.

What!? Leftovers again?

Age Old

By some accounts the verified world record holder for old age was a French woman who lived to be 122 years, 164 days (Jeanne Calmut, 1875-1997). Not verified were her last words: “Je suis si fatigue’”—French for “Man, am I pooped.”

122 years (and 164 days) is a long run. That’s older than some Hostess Twinkies. But just like every other “oldest living person in the world” before her, Jeanne’s reign finally ended. There is no precedent for anyone regaining the title.

Of all the records achieved by humans, ‘oldest person’ might be the hardest to train for. And even then, once you finally made it, anyone you might really want to impress wouldn’t be around.

You’d show up for your 100th high school reunion—and be the only one there. That means you’d be stuck paying for the entire keg. Plus, you’d have to dance with yourself.

Several years ago, a man in Tampa, Florida insisted that he was the world’s oldest human at 120 years of age—although it was hard to tell. Maybe the Grecian Formula on his beard made him look younger. Or maybe it was because he wore his baseball cap backwards.

The current oldest person in the world is a woman (as are most such title-holders) named
Emma Morano from a town in Italy. She’s 117, although sometimes claims to be 26.

Ms. Morano is said to be the last person on this planet who was born in the 19th century (1899.) When I was a kid, there were plenty of people in my town born in the 1800’s—my grandma, the retired man who lived next door—and just about every elderly guy sitting in the neighborhood barbershop. In fact ‘Old Man’ Jenkins passed away while waiting to get a shave.

According to news reports, one of Emma’s secrets to long life is that she never smoked—despite advertising in the 1940’s and 50’s stating “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette”—and “20,679 doctors say Luckies are less irritating.”(The ad does not specify exactly what Luckies are less irritating than. A vuvuzela? A fork scratching on a plate? Open mouthed chewing? The kid next door learning the violin?)

Even an ad where Mickey Mantle endorsed Viceroys did not convince Emma to take up the habit—even though Mantle hit 536 home runs, eight of them while smoking.

It perhaps makes the story of a man named Ali Mohammed Hussein (no relation to you-know-who) so impressive. In 1997, Ali claimed to be 135-years old. He’s now pushing up daisies—but prior to that said he smoked 60 cigarettes a day, everyday—and had done so his entire life. (His entire life? Doubtful. Where would a newborn find a dependable lighter?)

Still, with the public image of the U.S. tobacco industry at such a low ebb these days, what a splendid marketing choice a guy like that would have made: “Hey kids! Want to live 135 years—or more? Be like Ali Mohammed Hussein—and join the Three Packs-a-Day Club!”

But back to Emma Morano—only 117 years old.

She says she eats three eggs a day, two of them raw but none of them rotten. Plus she stays away from red meat—except for consuming a small amount of raw minced meat everyday (which has long been recommended by the American Raw Mince Meat Council.)
Emma also avoids liquor; loud music; talk radio and mimes.
It seems that the fewer the vices, the longer the life. Other suggestions:

  • Never pay for movies featuring Nicholas Cage.
  • Never eat anything with the words “Cheese” and “Whiz” on the label.
  • Never walk up to a motorcycle gang and say, “You guys don’t look so tough.”)

But lost in the perennial news about the oldest humans, is another noteworthy story from a few years ago—perhaps you recall it. The longest-lived aardvark on record, died at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. Her name was Kikuyu. She was 30 years of age—older and fonder of termites than Taylor Swift.

Kikuyu never smoked, and experts say she might have lived even longer if she had maintained a diet higher in minced fruits and vegetables—and lower in red ants.

Suddenly Vintage

The other day, the laptop computer I use for writing this splendid column starting behaving oddly. The written words were becoming repetitive and repetitive; the writing began to have mizpelings—and many of the paragraphs ended in mid-senten.

So I drove my laptop over to the same place I’d purchased it only four years ago. A guy sitting behind a counter called “The Genius Bar” gave it a quick once-over and then stated, “This keyboard is pretty dirty.” Only a genius could have come up with that. It made me think I should have taken my computer to a dry cleaners instead.
But upon further examination, Einstein’s doppelganger announced, “I’m not sure we can fix this thing. It’s a vintage model and it’s tough to get parts.”

Vintage? What did that mean? Did it mean that my laptop was an enduring classic—or that it looked like I had spilled a glass of classic 2006 Dom Perignon on the keyboard?

As soon as I got home, I googled the word ‘vintage’ just to be sure. When I got past all the favorable definitions about fine wine, excellence and maturity—my eyes fell upon the meaning the computer guy undoubtedly intended: “Old and outmoded.”

Four measly years old, and my laptop is old-and-outmoded. I turned my tearful eyes away from the computer screen—and stared sadly out my old-and-outmoded office window to the old-and-outmoded 2010 sedan sitting in my old-and- outmoded driveway.

Then, realizing I was sitting in my old-and-outmoded boxer shorts, I shuffled into the laundry room, removed my old-and-outmoded Dockers from our old-and- outmoded Maytag dryer, and slipped them on my old-and-outmoded self.

It is no news bulletin that virtually every brand-new thing you and I buy is already passé’ by the time it leaves the door of the store—or the box that Amazon delivers it in.

Even laundry detergent that is “new and improved” is “old and impaired” before it’s half-gone. If you get a puppy on Monday, plan to feed it senior formula by Wednesday. And you are lucky if you can get ten minutes out of a five-day deodorant pad.

It won’t be long before a worker who makes, say, thingamabobs—will take a lunch break only to come back and have his boss tell him: “Forget the thingamabobs. We are not making those anywhere. It’s doo-hickeys now.”

You might remember reading once about something called “planned obsolescence.” (Obsolescence is a big word that has pretty much become obsolete these days.) Planned obsolescence has to do with a business and manufacturing practice that began sometime in the 20’s or 30’s where, right from the start, products were designed to go haywire.

Maybe that’s not all bad. After all, if things like fashions never changed, a guy might wind up wearing the same pair of neon bellbottom pants that he bought 30 years ago. Like my brother does.

The idea is to get suckers—I mean, consumers—to be repeat customers over and over again. The best way to do that is to make sure that everything we might buy—from vehicles—to wax lips—will not last long. (Some people think wax lips by their very nature are not intended to last long. But I believe that with love and care, wax lips can last a lifetime.)

It all means that the novelty rubber chicken I got last Christmas is already ‘vintage’ since it has lost that new rubber chicken smell. In another year, it will be an antique; soon after that, museum-worthy.

Some obsolescence is not planned—it simply happens as technology changes. Take Kodachrome, the most popular photographic film for decades—pretty much discontinued by Eastman Kodak in 2009. The last roll of it was processed in 2010—perhaps vacation photos of a family trip to Enumclaw.

With digital cameras, home video and Smart phones—the demand for film went away. Paul Simon might have seen it coming in 1973, when he sang, “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.” But Mama did. Mama was into tough love—and all those old “Fotomats” are now drive-up java joints.

The whole thing can be a bit dismaying to people who long for days gone by. Yet, I am happy to report that my moribund laptop still has a place in my house—working nicely now as a doorstop. And the timing was perfect—since my actual doorstop stopped working two weeks ago and getting parts for it is tough.
So if you are about to celebrate a birthday, take solace in this: “You’re not getting older; you’re just getting outmoded.”

It means that your vintage glass—while a bit cracked and out of style—is nonetheless half full.

Lowering Altitude

Recent polls show that recent polling’s approval numbers are sinking faster than a canoe made of Swiss cheese.

Not only is public confidence in polls getting lower—now comes more bad news: America itself is getting lower too. We are no longer the tallest country in the world.

To be clear, it is not the country itself that is shorter than it used to be; it is the people within it. The tallest country would probably be the one that has all those Himalayan Mountains in it.
But the facts seem irrefutable. In fact, a study that first came out nearly a decade ago has become even more apparent: We simply do not lead in the vertical measurement department. We used to be tallest; we aren’t anymore. We’ve had shrinkage.

In the next United Nations group photo we may no longer get to stand in the back row, unless it is on tiptoe.
Apparently the Netherlands is now the tallest country in the world. In the past, they cheated at it by wearing wooden elevator shoes. But now—according to researchers—the folks in the Netherlands really do lead the planet in height. (Some skeptics say those researchers were paid off in Hollandaise sauce.)

Back in the 1850’s (the good old days of American physical stature) all the nations of Europe stood a full 2 1/2 inches shorter than us. We had citizens with fortitude, aptitude and altitude—like Abraham “The Stilt” Lincoln. He went 6 feet 4 inches. (6’8”in his stovepipe hat.)

Meanwhile, Europe had guys like Napoleon “The Teeny” Bonaparte. In truth, the French installed the Eiffel Tower just to deal with their height insecurities. They weren’t fooling anyone though.
Some scientists seem to think that the most likely difference in U.S. height these days has partly come about from the foods we eat. And ordering a tall latte in the morning is not solving the problem. Our nutrition is lousy.
As for the rest of our daily diet, it seems clear that shortbreads should be avoided. And shrimp. Oh, and also small fries.

OK, so what? If we Americans are getting shorter, does it really matter? After all, it is good news for the horseracing industry: There will be no shortage of jockeys.

But there is worry to anyone who ever saw the disturbing film (it might be a documentary), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, Albert Zugsmith, producer).

In the startling—and probably true tale—a strapping six-foot guy begins to notice that he is getting tinier, day-by-day. I would have to see the film again to recall exactly why he begins shrinking, but it’s possible that it happened on the job—perhaps after the hero fell into the vat at the “Preparation H” factory.

But before long, the poor shlub finds himself becoming so small that he is almost eaten by his pet cat. It is a terrifying scene, but luckily the man is so hairy the cat coughs him back up as a human hairball. (Again, I am writing about this from memory.)

By the end of the film, the guy becomes so small he cannot be seen by the naked eye. Not even a clothed eye can see him. Perhaps that is why the producer decided to end the film at that point—he camera simply could not locate him.

Another study appeared not long ago reporting that more Americans lie about their height, than their age. Can you believe that? In all my 24 years, I have never been more shocked.

In high school, I tried to make the varsity basketball team by fudging on my height—especially since I was undersized at the time. So I listed myself at 6’ 6”—a modest exaggeration of at least a foot.
After being cut from the team, I was devastated. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I then had time to take an after-school job. While other guys were playing basketball for no compensation, I got a cool four bucks an hour making mall appearances as Ernie, the Keebler elf.

Taller presidential candidates are said to have an advantage over their shorter opponents. So watch out Trump if Shaq decides to enter the race in 2020.
Some folks even tend to think taller people are brighter. It makes you wonder what
Einstein could have accomplished if he had worn lifts.

Nonetheless, who really cares if the United States isn’t quite as tall as it used to be?
And so what if the Statue of Liberty is a few inches shorter? She can just hold the torch higher.

Must wrap this up now. I don’t like the way my cat is looking at me.

The Role Model

Rueben pulled the old book down off his bookshelf along with a cloud of dust and the carcass of a long dead spider.

“Guess I ought to do some cleaning around here, “the old-timer said. “Next spring maybe.”

It was the day after the 2016 elections—and every time I need a wise take on things, I visit Rueben. He’s been around a long time and has seen it all.

He told me the first time he had voted for president was for a governor of Kansas named Alf Landon. “But that would have been 1936,”I said to him doing the math. “Landon ran against FDR who was trying for his second term. If you were eligible to vote then, you’d have to be over 100 years old by now.”
Rueben looked me straight in the face and then said, “Well, maybe I am over 100. Or maybe I mighta wrote Landon’s name in a time or two through the years.”

Maybe he did. Landon himself, after all, lived to be 100.

The book Rueben had taken down from the shelf was over-sized but thin—and I recognized it as a high school yearbook. Rueben began thumbing through it until he finally stopped at a page near the middle. “Here it is,” he said. “The student body officers in my senior year.”

He pushed the open book over so I could take a look. A girl named Mildred was shown as the class treasurer. “I liked her,” said Rueben. “She always had money in her purse. But there was never a whisper of malfeasance.”
The school vice-president’s picture seemed to be printed upside down. “That’s not a mistake,” said Rueben. “That guy ran on his own self-named Opossum Party ticket. He insisted on hanging off a tree limb for that photo. Nice kid, but a nut.”

But then Reuben squinted more closely at the top photo—the student body president. So did I. “Does he have a bloody nose?” I asked. Reuben said, “He usually did. That happens when you’re always punching people. Sometimes they punch you back.”

Rueben said the school election that year had come down to two choices: A brainy girl who was class valedictorian—and the guy with the bloody nose.

The girl, Veronica Dragna, had been the previous year’s student body secretary. Her list of accomplishments was impressive. It read: “VERONICA JEAN DRAGNA. National Honor Society; Student Council; Junior Achievement; Homeroom President; National Merit Finalist; Mixed Chorus; Perfect Attendance Club; Pep Club; Homecoming AND Prom Queen.

The guy sporting the bloody nose was named Dick Spinks.

RICHARD SPINKS. Detention Club; Juvenile Work Farm; Gun Club; Advanced Aggression; Varsity Bullying.
“Spinks had never held any school office previously,” Rueben said. “He was too busy shaking down other students. So when he suddenly decided to run for student body president—no one took him very seriously.”

Rueben remembered the day Spinks announced his candidacy. “He got up on a table in the lunch room and told all the other students—“

“Don’t tell me,” I interrupted. “He told them he wanted to make the school great again, right?”
Rueben shook his head. “No. He hated school and never thought it was ever all that great. “
“So why did he decide to run?” I asked.

“He had a bunch of grievances,” Rueben replied. “For one, he thought he deserved better grades from the teachers—even though he never went to class.”
“So what kind of report cards did he receive?” I asked.
Rueben shook his head again. “Couldn’t say,” he said. “He wouldn’t show them to anyone.”

According to Rueben, Spinks said a number of shocking things in his campaign speeches —picking on certain students, making snide comments about some of the girls, including the one running against him. He also kept saying what a lousy job the current student body president had done.

“He even put down the teachers and the school administration,” Rueben said. “Half the time, he came across as a real jerk. The other half too.”

That made me wonder why he had been elected.

“Hard to say—most of us didn’t expect it,” said Rueben. “Maybe the students wanted a change. Or maybe it was because as a jerk he was so genuine about it.”

Rueben said that after Spinks’ shocking victory at least half of the student body was bewildered—even depressed. They all predicted he’d be a disaster as president.

“And was he?” I asked.

Rueben closed the yearbook and put it back on the shelf. “No one ever got the chance to find out,” said Rueben. “He got suspended shortly after the election for punching the principal in the nose.”

I thanked Rueben for the visit and got up to leave. Then I turned back around and asked,
“So did that kid who was the vice-president wind up replacing Spinks as student body president?”

Rueben nodded. “Yes, he did. And true to his promise, he conducted all school assemblies hanging upside down.”
“What did the other students think about that?” I asked.

“They thought he was pretty much of a nut,” he said.

“But they all had to admit he certainly did have a different point of view. “

A friend named Cody

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Rick Blaine in Casablanca

“Sincerity—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” George Burns

As the election season has finally stumbled—breathless and cramping—across the finish line, it is time for a reset. Let us put the acrimony and fist waving aside; let us restore fellowship and plain civility; let us be friends.

A few months ago, I found a new friend—or rather, he found me.

His name is Cody. I don’t know his last name, but he knows mine. In fact, I got a lovely letter from him. Well, not a letter—it was lovely email. Cody works for an online company I recently ordered a product from—and he has been staying in touch ever since. Like several times a day since.

Here’s the latest email I received from Cody—verbatim—I’m not making it up:
“Hey Patrick! Cody from [name of the here again! How have you been?”
(Such a nice, personal opening. He asks about ME. That feels pretty darn good.)

“It’s been quite the busy few weeks over here—so hectic that I haven’t even had the chance to really catch my breath—devestated (sic) that I had to put my trip to [Pat’s on hold.”
(Did you get that last sentence? Cody was—and apparently still is—planning to drop by. He is going to visit me in person! That’s astounding!

My closest boyhood pal almost never comes to visit me. Only a handful of my relatives have ever been to my house. My own grown kids rarely stop by—and when they cancel they never seem to be upset about it.
But Cody? Devestated. That is how friends are.)

Cody’s email continued:
“I’m sitting here on my ten minute break (who works on a Saturday, right?), eating some corn flakes (best cereal ever). I also figure that if I’m going to be productive on my break, I better be doing something that I really love doing—and then I thought, hey, it’s been awhile since I talked to Patrick.”
(The very idea that a busy guy like Cody is thinking about me in the middle of his breakfast is just a very warm feeling. I got a previous email from him where he was thinking about me during some corned beef hash—and another time, it was waffles. It seems like I am always on his mind.)

“We just got some great new stuff in stock—and I immediately thought, hey, I’ve got to tell Patrick about this right away! “ (Again Cody—who you may notice never seems to think about himself—is making this new friendship of ours something really special.)

Here’s the rest of the email:
“Seriously, nothing makes me happier than making your experience as a [name of the friend the best if can be. Here are a few updates I want to pass along:
I have gathered a bunch of my favorite new deals and rounded them up here for your viewing pleasure. These are flying off the shelves, but don’t worry. I told our warehouse manager to set three of these on hold for you until Monday. So if you’re interested, don’t delay.
It’s time for another VIP appreciation gift! This time, I’m hooking you up with 40% off your order when you purchase at least two items. My boss told me that I have to cut the deal off tonight at midnight PST, so grab it while you can.
Patrick is awesome.
See ya next time! Cody.”

As you can imagine, I’m more than a little giddy about all of this. And Cody’s emails to
me just seem to get more personal—and more caring.

I expect the next one to read something like:
“Hey Patrick! Cody here again. I have to be honest with you. I’m worried about that mole on your back. You really need to have a doctor look at it. It might be nothing, but I’ll sure be relieved if it’s checked out.
What say I drop by sometime this afternoon and drive you over to the clinic? Along the way, I can fill you in on some amazing new deals we’ve got going right now.”

Yes, in the wake of this rough, tumble and decidedly unfriendly election season—people such as Cody serve as shining rays of companionable light in this impersonal world.

Better wrap this now. My wife is planning a special dinner in the hopes that “the Codester”will be dropping by sometime soon. He said he would.

And, just in case, I just bought a big new box of corn flakes if he wants to sleep over.

The Halloween Scene

It is hard to believe that decision day is at hand. There are an abundance of conflicting issues to sort through—and it’s no longer OK to be uncommitted, undecided. The time is now to make a choice.
I am of course referring to Halloween, 2016.

For adults the debate is unceasing: Should kids be allowed to trick-or-treat for candy—or is Halloween tantamount to consorting with Satan? (Here is a made-up statistic: 57% of dentists say that Satan is the cause of tooth decay.)

Halloween goes back to the ancient Druids. As it turns out, most Druids are ancient—even though there are always efforts to start Young Druid clubs in local high schools.

The ancient Druids believed that on Halloween the Lord of the Dead called forth the hosts of evil spirits. I caught up with the Lord of the Dead by phone last week—who despite the name seemed like a pretty nice guy.
“Those evil spirits went door to door in search of candy,” said the Lord of the Dead.
“Evil spirits have always needed their sugar fix. Even good spirits like a tasty Tootsie Roll once in awhile. So after we got it going, Halloween just seemed to catch on.”

I thanked the Lord of the Dead for the phone conversation. He told me to lose his number.
The other major issue confronting us every Halloween revolves around exactly what costumes to wear. Since this is—breaking news—an election year, many little kids will be forced to go out dressed like whomever their parents support—or abhor—for president.

Costume companies are offering many versions of both Trump and Clinton masks—some flattering, some not so much. For example—not made-up—there is the “Tax Evasion Trump” mask, sitting on the shelf next to the “Cackling Hillary Clinton.” A creative neighbor down the street has designed a two-headed person get-up for his four year-old, sporting both the Trump and Clinton masks. After all, being bipartisan insures maximum success obtaining candy.

It is reported that both masks are selling briskly right now. (Incidentally, Halloween stores might be one of the shortest-lived seasonal retail businesses—behind those for “National Plum Pudding Day”, February 12th, and “National Lumpy Rug Day”, May 3rd. Yes, real holidays.)

Spirit Halloween—a costume maker—claims that since 1996 the sales of presidential candidate masks have accurately presaged the outcome of the election. Their so-called Presidential Mask Index correctly predicted the Obama wins over both Romney and McCain; Bush’s over Kerry and Gore—and Bill Clinton’s win over Bob Dole. (Since the company is only 33 years old, they did not foresee Ulysses S. Grant’s massive victory over Horatio Seymour.)

This year, Trump masks are outselling Hillary Clinton models by 30%. Of course, that does not account for the margin of error. Or the Gary Johnson masks.
However, very few young trick-or-treaters really seem to care a bit about political candidates. Kids have their minds on Dum Dum’s, Goobers and Sugar Daddies. (The preceding is not intended as a mean-spirited partisan political remark—but merely as a short list of popular candies. Feel free to substitute with Airheads, Jaw Breakers, Nerds or Wax Lips.)

Since I was still trick-or-treating while attending college, I personal can attest that costumes are not top of mind for most kids. Costumes are merely a means to an end.

And while on the subject, it’s time to make a major demand: Big candy companies must stop using the label “Fun Size.” Every kid is on to you. They know that “Fun Size” is just code for cheap, inadequate and skimpy. “Fun Size” means small, tiny and embarrassing versions of real candy bars—and everybody knows it. This has been a public service announcement.

Meanwhile, insider information suggests that a few Seattle-area folks are moving beyond the cliché’ Trump and Hillary masks—although they are still selling better than the Rand Paul toupee’s.

But look for some local trick-or-treaters to be wearing outfits depicting some of our state’s “down-ballot” choices. I believe that on Halloween night in the 8th congressional district, you will either see lots of kids dressed as Pramila Jayapal and Brady Walkinshaw—or none. I stand by my prediction.

The kid who lives across the street from us is dressing as Governor Jay Inslee—his brother, as Bill Bryant. Their little sister is going as Initiative 1501.

I am still sheepish about Halloween night several years ago. I opened the front door to find a small person in a charming Senator Patty Murray outfit. I made a comment about the little costume—and that proved embarrassing.

How was I supposed to know the real Senator Murray would be out doorbelling on Halloween night?

Niche TV

There was a movie on TV the other night. Lots of them, actually. But the one I watched had various sub-plots, none of them compelling.

But what makes the film notable is that it all centered on people eating a huge, fabulous meal. It all looked so tasty that by the time the film was over, I was hungrier than the Kardashians are for attention.
The Food Network has the same attraction—just watching people prepare yummy dishes brings out the Pavlovian dog in many of us. I now keep a drool cup right next to the TV remote.
Not all TV offerings have the same effect. When the History Channel comes on, I don’t run out to buy a helmet and machine gun.

I don’t have a hankering to wrestle a python just because I see a guy doing it on Animal Planet.
I do not grab my Visa card to buy a 14 karat Muzo Colombian emerald ring just because the Home Shopping Network says so. I do it because my wife says so.

Yet, every time I find myself sitting in front of the TV watching the Food Network, I cannot turn away. There is a gluttonous allure to it. It helps if you are already shallow.

If you think about it, the idea of an entire network devoted to nothing but the worship of food is more than a bit weird. People such as Emeril Lagasse’ and Rachel Ray are lionized in a way that ought to be reserved for the truly great: Statesmen, artists, scientists—and finalists on Dancing with the Stars.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song in 1992 called ‘57 Channels and Nothing On.’ His point was that more choices do not always mean better ones. But nowadays, the title might be ‘557 Channels and Nothing On. Except the Food Network.’

I stupidly signed up for a TV service that offers around 12,000 channels or so. I watch perhaps six of them. Even my fav Food Network does not always ring my bell. The other night somebody was making something with eggplant—which tastes like neither egg nor plant. Slugs would taste better. (In fact, slugs ARE better. Just don’t salt them too heavily.)

It occurs to me that we need food networks that specialize in stuff we like. For myself, the Pancake Network comes to mind. Or the Dessert Network.
For my friend, Dean—it’s the Beer Channel all the way.
Another acquaintance—Tony—said wants to see the Grass Network. I never realized he was such a lawn buff.

After consulting with friends, other TV networks that are badly needed include:

ESPN (Entertainment and Shoes Programming Network)
The Food With-No-Weight-Gain Network
The Someone-Else-Cleaning-My-House Channel
The Well-built, Shirtless Handyman Who Fixes Stuff Channel
The Skinny Supermodels Being Slapped Around by All Other-Sized Women Channel

The Rude Body Noises Channel
The Attractive Women Who Actually Prefer Guys With Big Guts and Thinning Hair Network
The Everything Big Network
The Dirty Joke Channel

Come to think of it—in a growing universe of preferences, should not there also be a Ying network for every Yang channel?

For example, if there’s Food Network shouldn’t there also be Fasting Network?
The Outdoor Channel is fine. But I know plenty of people who would prefer the Indoor Channel.
The Learning Channel needs to be balanced with the Playing Hooky Channel.
Animal Planet? Some might prefer Shrub Planet.
There’s The Military Channel. Why not The Pacifist Channel?
And the Travel Channel would get stiff competition from the Lazy-Boy Recliner Channel.
Meanwhile, I’ll eagerly welcome new channels to come—maybe some of them as
appealing as the Food Network.
One called The Swimming Network would be nice.
But I’d be careful never to watch it within an hour of watching the Food Network.

40th Anniversary

I was married forty years ago…October 9th.

1976 was an ancient time beyond the imagination of many people living today.

There was no You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit or Google.
Ditto GPS, reality TV, Starbucks (at least not on every corner), Microsoft, Taylor Swift, Kardashians and Justin Bieber.

If someone mentioned Zombies, they were referring to a music group who once had a hit called “Time of the Season.”
There was no TV network where it was 24/7 of people just making and eating food. In fact, no one used the term “24/7.”

And there was no Real Housewives of anywhere…not even Medina.

There were No I-Phones, Pods or Pads either.
In those days, green was just a color…blackberry a fruit…cameras had film in ‘em…and a cougar was the Wazzu mascot.

And no one took pictures of food so they could post it for all to see.
Those were the primitive, dark ages in which my wife and I got married.

I don’t know if there is a statute of limitations when it comes to columns like this one, but here are some excerpts anyway from one I wrote here two years ago on the occasion of my anniversary then:
“We were married in a gymnasium that was temporary quarters for a catholic church. Regular churches often have the fragrances of incense and floral arrangements. But this one smelled more of P.E. clothes—the kind not laundered in a couple of semesters.

As soon as I entered the place, the familiarity of school basketball days kicked in—and I immediately took my customary place on the bench. But my wife gave me a look—a look that said I was not sitting this one out. I was a starter this time.

I was a mess the morning of the wedding. I was a rock of pudding; spineless as a marshmallow; jumpy as a rabbit on a hot skillet.”(In my original piece two years ago, I had written “jumpy as a fire-walking rabbit. I have now changed that last line to the “hot skillet” thing so I won’t be accused of plagiarizing myself. )

“The lines on the basketball court made it easier for me to remember where I was supposed to go. When the procession music started, I moved from the scorer’s table straight down the mid-court line to the center circle. Then I stopped—did a stutter step, a quick head fake—and then cut to my right.

Perhaps I made the move too fast, slightly turning my ankle as I came down the free-throw line. But I knew the best thing I could do at that point was to play through the pain. I just felt that at that point, I couldn’t let my bride down.”

I knew I would have at least forty more years to do that.

I remember an idle thought that crossed through my mind as we were exchanging those wedding vows. In that very moment I recalled a grade school basketball game in a different gymnasium years earlier. On that day, with the game clock running down, I took a wild shot from nearly mid-court. I didn’t know what I was doing—or why exactly—and the crazy shot had no chance of going in. Except it did.

And as the home team crowd cheered—and my teammates high-fived me—I didn’t let on that my winning shot was pure chance and dumb luck.

And, yes, it was another even luckier day in October of ’76. That’s when I linked up with the best human I have ever known. It was pure chance and dumb luck.

There is an old long-accepted belief that men cannot ever remember their wedding date.
Now I am certainly not the most perfect of people, to be sure. But I have always remembered my wedding date. And that has been true for forty years now.

It is my wife that cannot remember the date. And that has been true for forty years now.
However, my old man was not an exception to the husband-forgetting-his-anniversary tradition—and things were not made better by the joke he used to tell. It was an old, quite hairy one—and went something like this:

Bert routinely forgot his anniversary. One year his wife Evelyn got so annoyed about it she said to him “Let me tell you something, buster! This year you better not forget our anniversary—and I better find something special waiting for me in the driveway that day!”
Bert gulped and said, “What kind of something do you want in the driveway, my sweet?”
She replied, “Something that goes from zero to 200 in no time at all—or ELSE!”

Bert got the message—remembered the anniversary—and when Evelyn walked out to the driveway that morning…she found a brand new…bathroom scale.

Bert’s funeral was closed casket.