Husband read this to me the other night. It is from Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant. He is describing a 19th century railroad baron. Remind you of anyone we know?
With his handsome blond mustache, bloated frame, and diamond rings, the flashy Jim Fisk was the antithesis of the saturnine Gould. The son of a Vermont peddler, he collected prostitutes and chorus girls no less promiscuously than he bought railroads and steamships and exulted in the attention his flamboyance aroused. Such was his roguish charm that people were captivated even as they were horrified by his total lack of scruples. As George Templeton Strong sketched him: ‘Illiterate, vulgar, unprincipled, profligate, always making himself conspicuously ridiculous by some piece of flagrant ostentation, he was, nevertheless, freehanded with his stolen money, and possessed, moreover, a certain magnetism of geniality that attracted to him people who were not particular about the decency of their associates ‘. Chernow, R. (2017), p 673. Grant. Penguin Press: New York.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. What trends from the past would you like to see again?
Every morning our grey cat sits expectantly by the front door, waiting. She waits for the magic moment when the light appears on the living room wall and ceiling above our media cabinet. She knows it is somehow associated with my cell phone. This morning she saw me walk into the living room with my phone, and immediately jumped on top of the media cabinet, waiting for the light. The kitten stays on the floor, as her legs are too short to make the leap to the top. The light sometimes appears low enough for her to pounce, and she waits for it, too.
When I sit in the love seat by the bay window, the sun reflects off my cell phone screen and I can flash a light all over the walls and ceiling. The kitten tries to grab it. It always slips between her paws. The grey cat just sits and watches it with fascination and excitement. It seems to be strangely satisfying for her, as though her day is off to a good start when the light appears. As the days shortened this fall, the light sometimes didn’t even show up, since the sun wasn’t in the right position until after I left for work. The grey cat never gave up hope. She waited each morning.
Today we planned our garden and chose the seed varieties for next summer. I hope the rains come and we don’t have a drought. I don’t think we are too different from our cats, waiting with hope for the promise of light in this dark season and these even darker times.
The new year has just started. What are you hoping for?
I have mulled over this topic for the past couple of weeks, as one man (and few women) after another has lost his job, credibility, and respect with accusations and admissions of sexual harassment and assault. My first thought through all this has been “They are really lucky I am not their mother!!!!”
My husband used to assess low and moderate risk convicted sex offenders, usually those who had committed crimes against children, for their suitability for treatment. We know from research that the sooner those folks are integrated back in the community and have jobs and stability, along with ongoing therapy and careful monitoring by their probation officers, the less likely they are to re-offend.
What do we do now with the Al Frankens, Roy Moores, and John Conyers of this country? How do we heal, and promote inclusivity for all our citizens? I wonder if the model of Truth and Reconciliation, used in South Africa after the end of Apartheid has relevance here. I believe that in that circumstance people admitted their wrong doing, faced their victims, and engaged in meaningful acknowledgement of the damage their actions had caused. Then they ceased engaging in the behavior that was so harmful and wrong. People could move ahead.
So, what do you think we should do now?
My husband is a pretty finicky fellow, and has definite preferences regarding the clothes he wears. He has been somewhat distressed lately after futile searches for his favorite jeans-Levi’s 501 jeans. Those are the ones with the button fly. I have no idea why he prefers them, but there it is.
He has had trouble finding the size he needs as well as the colors he wants. His secret worry has been that they are no longer being manufactured, and that he will have to find a new style and brand of jeans to wear. This makes him feel as old and as out of date as the Dodo. It is as though he can still imagine himself as a young man at U of Wisconsin when he wears those jeans with his Frye boots.
He was delighted this weekend to find some on-line. He tends to shop in stores instead of on-line, and our choices out here are limited. Now his youthfulness is preserved, and he can go forward into his mid 60’s with confidence.
What keeps you feeling young? What do you fear will go out of production?
I love my job but I realized as I was driving up my driveway tonight that I feel a big relief on Friday evenings; it’s almost as if I’ve had a weight lifted off me. I think this means my body somehow knows I’m inching closer to retirement.
What are you up to this weekend?
Today’s post comes from Crystalbay.
Tonight, I lost the battle. I’m defeated. I give up. For one month, I’ve kept my two kittens blockaded in the bedroom. I have a big door on one side; no door on the other. Because I felt they should only be kept in one room for a while, I moved a big bench to close off the opening without a door and nailed in a throw a few inches higher than the bench to fool them into thinking there was no way out.
This worked for a while, then “Trouble” found a way over it, so I nailed the blanket half a foot higher. That worked for a while until tonight when I nailed the blanket up so high that only one foot was still exposed. Trouble climbed over it in seconds, even though I repeatedly squirted him with a water bottle. He’d dart off, then return to finish his task of penetrating the barrier to full freedom in seconds. He didn’t care that I yelled “NO” or that I’d pick him up and toss him back in the room or that I squirted him. He had no respect or fear at all.
That’s it: they’re both on the loose, terrorizing my old cat upstairs and doing anything that their feline instincts lead them to. I’m defeated. The vet was right about this male Ragdoll and now I’m under their control. Poor old Izzy, whose world was upended a few weeks ago. In just one week, she lost her only friend, Peanut, then was scared into the dungeon below the cottage for days. A few days later, I brought the kittens home, so she lost having me in the bedroom she’d always come into for affection. She spotted the kittens for the first time only two days ago, and spent hours hiding in the bedroom upstairs. Her only comfort in life has been having me, out of guilt, going upstairs to sleep with her every night after the kittens were safely closed in the downstairs bedroom. Now, she’s lost even that.
Now, Trouble, followed by his copycat sister, has claimed the entire cottage as his territory. I’m struggling right now with feeling owned rather than owning these pesky fur balls.
What is the best way to turn defeat into something postive? When have animals or people got the best of you?
I was happy to wake up on September 24 and find that the world hadn’t ended as David Meade, biblical numerologist, had predicted. I believe he recalculated after he found things were still the same on the 24th as they were on the 23rd, and predicted another date for our demise on October 15th. The rogue planet Nibiru, violating all physics principles, is predicted to collide with earth and set in motion all sorts of rannygazoo. We shall have to see what happens. I believe that is the date of Blevin’s book club. At least you will all be together.
It isn’t easy to make accurate predictions. Our world is so random that people search for certainty and cling to the idea that we can make sense of the universe. Consider poor Harold Camping, the evangelist and radio host who made multiple predictions of the Earth’s end in 2011, and who finally admitted in 2012 that he was sinful for even trying to make such predictions, falling back on Matthew 24:36 “of that day and hour knoweth no man”.
I am often asked as part of my work to make predictions regarding human behavior. Psychologists have a myriad of tests and ways of making such predictions, but it is never completely 100% accurate. I know that people who score certain ways on tests of cognition and memory probably have dementia. I know that people who score in certain ways on tests of emotions and personality probably have certain mental health diagnoses. I feel pretty certain predicting that parents with drug and alcohol use disorders who previously neglected and abused their children will probably do the same thing if they continue to abuse substances. I can predict, however, with almost 100% certainty, that if people are allowed to purchase machine guns, those guns will fired off. That is probably the easiest thing to predict, and you don’t need an advanced graduate degree to do so.
When have you been able to say “I told you so”?