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Monthly Archives: January 2013

$16 trillion of debt is a big number, one no one wants to own. Number 99 belongs to Wayne Gretzky; 7, to Mickey Mantle. But who would dare wear a jersey boldly emblazoned with the number of the national debt? And the annual increasing heat index, who feels and cares about the suffering as personally as Mother Earth? If it was so hot that everyone believed the Equator had moved so far north and now passed through your backyard, would you really feel bothered that the winters of yesteryear were a thing of the past?

I think I’ve invented a word: Acreation. Its definition might be similar to those of ‘amoral’ or ‘atrophy’. And it could be thought of as the antithesis to procreation. Its meaning would be to no longer create. And as it relates to the current status of our nation’s debt and our world’s Eco-system, I propose we spare our children and grandchildren these burdens by not having any children. After all, both political and media pundits continue to emphasize what a mess we’re passing on to generations to come.

It seems like a simple concept, to ‘acreate’ so as to spare the unborn a lifetime of hardship. But if that were true, those who currently have children would have made a choice for a better world for their already-existing children, unflinchingly, whatever that sacrifice might have entailed. But similar to how easy it is for us to ignore these large-scale problems, it’s just as simple to ignore the burdens those yet to be born will encounter. So we adapt.

In the movie Doctor Zhivago, Yuri the good doctor is advised to “adapt” to the social changes coming to Russia at the end of the first world war and the beginning of Bolshievism. He doesn’t. Rather than becoming a cog in the Soviet machine, he takes his wife, son and father-in-law, forsaking his occupation, and finds sanctuary in a farmhouse on the family’s isolated country estate. There, he becomes a sort of country gentlemen, writing poetry and growing vegetables. It’s a good life. But something is missing. Life and life-changing events, where people connect with other people, creating unique experiences. So, eventually, Yuri travels to the nearby town and takes a mistress.

It’s hard to have the best of both worlds – solitude and a sense of community. Each has its own set of obligations. And although I could go days, particularly during the winter, spending the entire weekend indoors, eventually I find myself venturing out for a breath of fresh air or a bite at a nearby restaurant. As always, I need to get back to what stirs the emotions and thoughts – interaction with the outside world. There’s this give and take between the hermit-me and the community-me, feeding off each other. And in the end, growth and waste join hands, further making the world what it is today and probably always will be – a perpetuation of decay.

In the end, what we all expect, in direct opposition to ‘acreation’, is ‘a creation’. From the taste of a finely-prepared meal to the gurgles of a newborn, these are the things that, for better or worse, distract the individual from a worldview involving domestic financial uncertainty and over-whelming global challenges. These are the things we can actually get both our arms and mind around.

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It was a cool autumn Saturday in H_______.

A new car. The lot was full of them. But Cecil settled on a last year’s model that had logged only 178 miles, all of them test driven by other prospective buyers who were, he imagined, unable to recognize the car’s economical functionality and reduction in sticker price. It lacked anything beyond the standards. No power locks. No power windows. No cruise control. And manual shifting of the front seats and side mirrors, just like the twenty-five year-old model he had just traded in. He drove off the lot with the same caution he had with the old one.

No one had ever accused Cecil of frivolity. Co-workers noted the repeated use of the same brown bag that carried, each day, the same cheese and baloney sandwich and green apple, until the folds would finally split open, frayed like the hem of his decades-old khakis. Times had changed over the years, progress continually making its mark, and technology advancing exponentially. Yet Cecil had stayed true to his style of haircut, self-cut and parted on the side, a sweep of graying hair parked tightly against the right side of his forehead. And now he would park the new car in the same old garage attached to the same old house he had been raised in and he had, many years ago, inherited.

The old farmhouse had stood the test of time as the city crept further out into rural territory, finally surrounding the red brick structure with modern-day homes, populated with youthful couples and their offspring. But none of the houses’ appearances could catch up with the agefulness that was Cecil’s childhood home. Both old and newly-planted trees, growing in the other yards, paled by comparison to the great birch and oak which provided birds with a bird’s eye view of the highest of perches for as far as the bird’s eye could see.

Atop the roof could be found the archaic television aerial, the kind made with far more elements than the number of channels it could receive. And inside, without an HD box for his wood-console tube TV, the number of stations received had stood at zero for several years. The inherited living room furniture had remained stationary, oft-repaired, just like the kitchen appliances, and all by Cecil’s own hand. An old rotary telephone hung on the kitchen wall, sturdy and reliable, Cecil believed, as any of the new wireless phones available on the market.

A drizzly and dark Monday morning greeted the early riser Cecil the actuarian, ready to drive his new car the fifteen miles to work at the H________ office for Prudential Life Insurance. As he began his drive, he realized his wiper switch, unlike his old car, had an intermittent position. Thinking to himself, here’s another way to cut costs by preserving the number of times the wipers would flip to and fro, thus saving on the wiper motor usage while delaying wiper blade degradation.

His difficult squinting through the intermittently-drizzle-clouded windshield gave way to Cecil’s presumed benefits of intermittently-used wipers. Ingenuity, seated in the passenger seat, seemed to pat Cecil on the back, congratulating him for saving pennies on the dollar.

Halfway to work, along the remotest stretch of his commute and in the very middle between wiper swipes, Cecil had no time to hit his brakes as a buck lunged high enough above the new car grill, yet low enough to front-hooves first through the windshield, thus expediting the will-granted expense of a pine-box coffin at a funeral affording no more than two hymns and a standard, boilerplate eulogy.

With a handful of joint-swollen fingers, Cathy chased away the trampy cat that lived downstairs from off her fire escape, not wishing to share today’s solemn moment with either man or beast. Seeing Donald Isaacs sweeping the front stoop of his fish market, she shouted down after it, “Your owner is a jackass.”

“And you’re crazy!” he shouted up to her, breaking the somber swishing of his broom in the early summer morning.

“Uh oh,” said old-timer Trevor Haroldsen, crossing the street while on his way to the corner cafe, “another disagreement?”

“Not another one,” Donald shrugged. “The same old one.”

“That’s a shame,” the old timer chuckled. “And such a perfect combination: cats and fish.”

“Gout and fur balls, more like it,” Cathy heard Donald mumble above his sweeping, once the old man had turned the corner.

Cathy’s apartment above the fish market had, over the past twenty years, increased in occupancy, never decreasing. With each passing cat, instead of leaving them with the vet to dispose of the remains, she would, instead, have each one’s ashes fill a customized urn.

She was now stacking and ranking them, top to bottom, according to favorability. Today, Bot’m Finny, a three-times abandoned gray tabby, thought by the folks at the shelter to have the luck of the Irish, held the peak position. Cathy had her own notions, imagining he had possessed a feline version of demeanor similar to “the most interesting man in the world” seen in all those Dos Equis TV commercials. She had always imagined him running with the town’s wild crowd and partaking in all sorts of adventures. She now recalled a time, while looking out the window, seeing him engaged, flirtatiously, with the downstairs trampy cat. Irked, she moved his urn from its place atop the catem pole.

St’enge, short for Stonehenge, was now on top. Cathy thought of how precarious her urn looked. She had always been a quiet, slow-motion kitty, suggesting a world-worn life, finally reduced to an ageless monumental circle of broken orange and white stripes, always resting in her usual place, a brittle antique chair, under the high sun. She fell asleep forever in that spot the same day the Mayans had predicted the end of the world and Donald had asked for her hand in marriage, with conditions. Now she felt like St’enge, done in and done with.

She reached for the urn with its tin-etchings of Druid imagery. “We’re sisters, you and I.”

“Must you talk to those cannisters, outdoors?”

Cathy ignored the question. It was easy to ignore the man who had cut off hers and her four living cats’ food source. ‘First rule in running a business,’ he had told her, ‘don’t eat up the profits. So if we marry, all cats must go.’

Donald quickly swept and stepped till he was beneath the fire escape.

Cathy continued to ignore him.

“I really want to marry you, you know,” he said barely above a whisper.

She looked down, through the grating, at the top of his bald head, shifting right to left, back and forth like a confidence man, and she his ‘mark’. “Whatever you’re selling, fishmonger, I’m not buying!”

“Not so loud,” said Donald while striking the bottom of the fire escape with the end of his broom.

Before Cathy could reach for it, the urn of St’enge slowly slid from its perch, knocking against the railing, dislodging the cover and spilling ash down upon Donald.

Donald looked up, clearing his eyes with his index fingers. “What’d you do that for?!” Now he could see her face, shock-filled, with a dissolving fuse.

“Cat killer!”

“Cat was already dead, woman!”

“Don’t move! I’m coming right down!”

A man stood frozen, with cat on his face, while a woman ran down a flight of steps to save a dead animal. Meanwhile, the heart of a small town beat to the drum of a common note uncommonly known as absurdity.