Congratulations to us all for surviving to the middle of November, in the year designated by the number 2017, which I just confirmed is a prime number. Meaning, 2017 cannot be written as the product of other integers, like 5 x 13 x 71 (or whatever).
The Internet is an amazing repository of trivial information of use to a needy writer. The Web site I consulted for the prime number thing, which is www.calculatorsoup.com, not only provided accurate information, but reported that the amount of time needed for its calculations was 4.33112 millisecond, the precision of which impresses me more than the calculations themselves. Despite the site being both impressive and useful, I do not plan on purchasing the Nissan Rogue (starting price $23,820) that was advertised.
Also thanks to the Internet, I received a wide variety of warm greetings last October 19th, which was my birthday. Said greetings arrived from friends and family, from the dentist and the eye doctor, from Starbucks Coffee, and, surprisingly, from a baseball team, the Detroit Tigers.
Starbucks makes sense, because I stop in regularly for my grande dark roast and a lemon loaf, but the Tigers, well, I didn’t know they cared. I attended one Tigers game this year (a 10-0 scalping by the Indians), but I have patronized many sports and cultural organizations, and the Tigers were the only one to acknowledge the anniversary of my arrival in the world. I want to imagine that the reason is related to their hiring of a new manager, Ron Gardenhire, which they announced the following day.
Snot-nosed Tigers Executive: Gardy, we’d like to make you the next manager of the team. Congratulations!
Ron: Not so fast, boychik. First you gotta wish happy birthday to this guy, Joe Berman. I don’t really know him, but the two of us once fished with the same guide on Whitefish Lake, north of Brainerd.*
Even Snottier-nosed Tiger Executive: So how do you know it’s his birthday?
Ron (angrily): BECAUSE I’M A MAJOR LEAGUE MANAGER!
First S-NTE: This request is highly irregular. I’m sorry, but our team policy clearly states that–
Ron: Well, then it’s no dice, losers! I’m walking. Go rehire Brad Ausmus.
Second S-NTE: All right, fine. You win. We’ll send out the birthday greetings.
Ron: Better make sure they’re sincere, and I mean damned sincere! We want Joe to take in more games whenever he’s in Michigan, which I hear is about once every total solar eclipse.
*This sentence is true.
Although pleasant and enjoyable, the Tigers game was not the highlight of the past year for me, and certainly not for my wife. That designation goes to the birth of our second son, Nathen, on June 23rd, only a scant 12 years after the arrival of son the elder, Maxwell. Which takes me back to about a year ago, when my wife sent an e-mail to me at work, announcing that the two of us were dining that night at the fanciest restaurant she could find, which was a room called 80 Thoreau in nearby Concord, Massachusetts.
I knew immediately that this announcement meant one of two things: either we were celebrating a pregnancy, or we were celebrating, or merely commemorating, the end of a long and unsuccessful attempt at same. It turned out to be the former.
The dinner was a lovely, almost perfect evening at a very elegant restaurant, marred for me, and only very slightly, by a tiny worry that I would be accosted by a certain Concord Resident who might have a complaint against me, for professional reasons. I thought it highly unlikely that the Resident would be dining at this particular fancy restaurant on that particular night, but if so he struck me as the sort of maroon who would saunter to my table and start popping his cork over various complaints, which certainly would have spoiled the celebratory mood.
But none of that happened.
I am proud that after all these years, I have made many more friends than enemies.
On Halloween, I accompanied the posse for their annual rounds. Not much changed from previous years–same kids, same houses, and Maxwell even wore pretty much the same costume–but this time we were stalked by Aiden the Rabbit, which was interesting. Aiden was not really stalking us, he merely was circulating through the same streets we were, and eventually he veered off and we didn’t see him again. I know his name only because Charlie, a member of our group, was able to identify him, although without spelling, so I suppose Aiden might have been Aidan or Ayden or Eiden. The rabbit outfit was terrific, complete with an oversize head of foam and felt, plus a basket, instead of a bag, for receiving candy.
At one point, I said, “Hello, Aiden the Rabbit.” He smiled a little and went on his way.
As shown by Alice in Wonderland and its derivatives, among them the song “White Rabbit,” by Jefferson Airplane, and that scene in the movie The Matrix, a white rabbit on the move is an invitation to something new, possibly trouble, no way of knowing. You follow the white rabbit; he doesn’t follow you. So what does it mean to be stalked by Aiden the Rabbit? Darned if I know. The mystery lived and died on Halloween night, and seems unlikely for resurrection apart from this essay.
We are approaching Thanksgiving, and I know what I’m grateful for. Yes, the list includes family, friends, good health, a steady paycheck, an oxygen-rich atmosphere, nights that the baby sleeps through, etc. etc, but here’s a story from our family road trip of August, 2016, which is now over a year ago.
I shall continue in the present tense.
We are driving south on U.S. Highway 85, after a visit to the (little known, very worthwhile) Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The hour is late in the afternoon, the countryside is empty, and the gas gauge is a little closer to empty than I would prefer.
What to do? None of the choices are appealing. We could double back to the metropolis of Watford City, but no one (including me) wants to retrace steps just for gasoline. We could detour east to a town named Kildeer, but who knows what civilization lies in Kildeer? It is a dot on the map that holds little promise.
The third choice is to plow onward, with the idea that the supply will hold to the intersection with the freeway, good old I-94, where services certainly must be. This is the option I choose, because I kinda think we have enough gas to make it that far; it might be a little close but probably OK, or so I expect and hope, and so my rudimentary calculations confirm.
So we motor along….
Then, over the horizon, lo and behold, there it is: a Shell Oil truck stop.
It is a real, modern, bustling, good-looking truck stop in the middle of nowhere, its formal name the Sweet Crude Travel Center. Strictly speaking we are on the outskirts of the town of Grassy Butte, which is well named, but while there is plenty of grass and a butte in the distance, we don’t see much of a town, just the truck stop.
We gas up the car, we buy hot dogs and soda, we use the toilets, everything is wonderful. Then we continue on our way.
So, I am grateful when things work out. I am grateful for problems that are mirages, for good luck and good fortune, for spinning the wheel and winning, maybe not a million dollars, but at least a new stick pen, or a plastic ice scraper, or $10 off a lift ticket at Nashoba Valley (which indeed is what I won at the ski show last Saturday.)
We face enough bad luck and bad breaks in our daily lives. I think we all received a dump-truck load in our collective faces about a year ago, from that election, and the consequences are still screwing us over and promise to continue doing so. A national election involves more than just luck, of course, but I think the 2016 outcome was hardly inevitable. My point is that there’s good luck, too, and I’m grateful for it, and I want to continue fostering it through hard work and smart decisions and caring for my little family and the world around us.
That’s the post for today. Fair wishes to you and yours.