Awkward Position

There are some geographically challenged who can get lost looking for milk in the refrigerator. For us (them), the global positioning system is reason enough to buy a car.

A trip that jaunts from start to finish without dissolving into wrong turns, missed exits, and out-of-character ranting, is to be cherished, when it happens.

To date, it has not. It is not the fault of the technology, which has a voice that sounds human and demeanor that is beatified: no judgment, no sighing, no eyebrow raising.

The trouble is the geographically challenged driver can’t seem to follow directions, which is why we (them) are geographically challenged in the first place.

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Toddler talk

During the 1960s, toys my two brothers and I played with did not talk. We imbued them with speech, imagining ourselves as brave, smart, funny and wonderful. We made-believe. Our toys went along with this plan.

Today my grandbabies play with stuffed animals, chairs, dinosaurs, superheroes, maps, soccer balls that speak on their own, in high-pitched and cheery voices. They have a singular topic of conversation: learning. My grandbabies go along with this plan.

Make-believe is a nice way to decide what you want to learn.

Today, toys already have decided what you want to learn. That is good, too; but sometimes I wish they would…you know, just shut up.

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Elms, again

Not long ago, an elm tree decided, on its own, to take root and grow in my brother’s garden-y back yard.

This, despite Dutch Elm disease, a global virus that obliterated 200 years of elms in 60 years (1930-1990). My hometown of Elmhurst Il lost its share of the 58 million dead among America’s 78 million; still, it retains more than Great Britain, which once enjoyed the shade of 30 million, Now it is home to 100.

Back when the disease raged, stewards did their best. At first, they did all the wrong things: burning, spraying bugs, cutting down. Finally, it was learned the virus spread from roots to crown. Treating the roots saved trees and new species with immunity to Dutch Elm are being developed.

It takes a long time to grow a tree and those gone from boulevards, streets, creek banks and lanes can’t be duplicated. But, in spring, elm trees are at their most cheerful and the young one in my brother’s garden-y back yard looks determined to remember.

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Intend to pretend

Pretending is something we do. Children are particularly good at it. Novelists do it for a living. Some folks make up pretend people, avatars, to play a pretend game. We may dress in such a way, talk in such a way to present the person we are…embellished with a little pretend.

It’s play with purpose, a way to discover something. Everyone knows it’s pretend. That’s the rule.

Social media pretending wouldn’t be troublesome if that rule was in practice. The only rule appears to be there isn’t any, Pretend to be a pundit and publish lies. Pretend to be infirm and ask for money. Pretend to be real and fool others into believing it.

We are better than that. If need be, let’s pretend we are.

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Transistor resistor

Recent purchase of a cherry red transistor radio was not nostalgic. Its appeal was a slit on its side into which a thumb drive can be inserted for the listening pleasure of family music captured on that thumb drive.

It’s simple: a volume wheel, an on-off switch, a button to change radio stations, and the aforementioned slit.

It is handy: no password, no booting up, no subscription, no charging.

It’s a one-way medium: no interaction, none whatsoever with the rare exception of calling a phone number to win a radio station giveaway, which rarely live up to the hype anyway.

I am nostalgic for those features. All in all, it was a very timely purchase.

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Puppy the dog

My language skill set consists of English. I hear evocative sounds in other languages but don’t comprehend their meaning. This is why I can’t remember the name of my neighbor’s dog, who is about four years old now.

I have known and liked him for that long, since he arrived next door in his owner’s arms, something akin to a squishy football with appendages. I asked his name not once but three times. It was clear to me it was a name of deep tribal significance in some culture somewhere; but what I heard sounded like “So What” or “Sack Cloth” or “Sea Wart.”

These didn’t suit him at all so I punted and called him ‘Puppy the Dog.”

I still do. He now is almost my height. He is fond of ballasting himself with his paws on my shoulders so we can greet each other eye to eye.

I could be wrong but when I call him “Puppy the Dog,” I detect in his expression that he is still waiting for me to smarten up.

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Learning curve balls

Preschool children get grownup attention for things they should be doing, according to grownups: grow at a certain rate, socialize or walk or use the potty at a certain age, go to bed at reasonable hours.

They receive less attention for things they choose to do, such as the following:

Laugh. They laugh at grownups when they are funny, when they are trying to be funny, when they are not funny at all.

Find things. As a grownup who gets lost looking for milk in the refrigerator, it’s humbling see a two-year-old locate a fuzzy cheerio abandoned under the sofa, press the volume phone button during library story time and commence screaming a good three blocks before arriving at the doctor’s office.

Emote. No language skills are deemed necessary to express fear, disdain, need, outrage, glee, approval, self-satisfaction, surprise, intent.


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LEGO Lesson

Sales at the 85-year-old Danish LEGO Company recently dipped 5%. Some folks conjecture children now prefer video-digital-electronic anything rather than  individual blocks that offer freedom to make whatever it is they wish to make.

It is possible the company now will re-evaluate their business approach to making LEGOs, which includes the following:

  1. Be inspired by the simple Danish phrase “Leg godt” (in English, “play well.”)
  2. Make it indestructible so buyers need not replace broken ones.
  3. Design it so each new set works very nicely with existing ones.
  4. Never disparage copycat blocks even if they are inferior.
  5. Include genius instructions so anybody can successfully build without needing to purchase how-to add ons.
  6. Do not link LEGO to any celebrity merely to cross-sell other stuff.
  7. Be a friend to little hands by making big blocks for early motor skills and adding smaller blocks later to let a child feel very smart indeed.
  8. Keep the price in the moderate range and offer enough sizes so most children can have some.
  9. Remain whimsical while adapting LEGO to developing trends (space shuttle, jungle expeditions, superheroes).
  10. Stick to the vision that…”it is not just about the products. it is about realising human possibility.”

I hope the company will not alter its business approach. I just wish they made LEGOs for grownups.


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Amazing grazing

A food store recently opened in our Chicago neighborhood. Happy news for those of us who like to eat. It is clean, well stocked and brightly lit.

And much much more. Every aspect of food consumption apparently has been analyzed and installed within its cavernous two floors, with the possible exception of slaying one’s own game or harvesting one’s own produce.

That may be coming. For now, food as art, as entertainment, as social enabler, as convenience, as status symbol, as sustenance, as pleasure, as fantasy, as family outing, as educator, is here. The sushi bar, burger bar, coffee bar, salad bar, seafood bar, wine bar and bakery bar elevate the notion of public consumption to the level of worship.

Customers respond accordingly. Speaking in hushed tones, navigating around each other politely, poking melons for ripeness with respect.

I look forward to joining the happy horde who shop here but left empty-handed on initial visit. I must prepare my pantry, appliances and family for the arrival of food that will expect to be adored.


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Small gains

The playground in our Chicago neighborhood is generally populated by three-year=olds whose primary similarity is height, about 27 inches.

Their names suggest imaginative growups to come. Lemon, Jersey, Atticus, Sparkle, Nimrod, Aspen sound like folks interesting to know.

Their colorful mix of complexions and accents suggest diversity that is real, not imagined.

Their determination to outrun their parents suggest the universal law that some things never change.

Their ability to find almost anything funny suggest that all of us are born hopeful, until we forget to play.

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