Letter to Tobias

My Dear Tobias,

Odd as it may sound, it soothes my heart to know that you are well aware of my many eccentricities. I cannot help but wonder though, sir, what your reaction will be when you realize that I am transcribing this missive from the solitude of my master bathroom.

What, I imagine you saying with the raised eyebrow, and why? For what reason is the old fish enclosed, rather than in the comforts of his opulent office, in the curious confines of a lavatory? May I begin by putting your mind at rest: it is not for a desire for that which is cavalier. What, then? In a word five words ten words: I am hosting Thanksgiving for Aunt Veronica’s family this year.

Ah, yes—I can almost see your scornful eyebrow melt into a bug-eyed gape of concern. I am almost ready to eat my belt.

Well can you imagine the bitter scene: My sole responsibility in the edibles department, the turkey, was cooking merrily to perfection. Having used standard algorithms in regards to weight, temperature, etc. to prepare the bird (plus my own secret modus operandi re fowl), I awaited the arrival of guests with a certain degree of aplomb. The tableware sparkled and the candles glimmered. In fact, the only thing not shining with joy and gratitude in preparation for the feast was a dark cloud of foreboding that hovered somewhere between the saucer of pickled beets and my left ear.

May I interrupt this life tale, old fruit, to inquire as to whether I have shared what happened when I joined this particular branch of the old family tree for New Year’s a year or so ago? No? A pity, really—you would have more readily anticipated my growing angst prior to The Arrival.

I am at this point undecided as to which element, specifically, set my teeth a-gnashing and filled my heart with ice. Was it when near-sighted Aunt Veronica ran over my potted chrysanthemums while parking, or when little Joanna’s (first cousin once removed) second action after a friendly hug was to walk right through the screen door (as in, repairs needed)? Perhaps it was when cousin-in-law Bert’s greeting words—along with a hearty handshake—loudly requested my contribution to a recent car debate regarding the upheavals in Ferguson, MO, or maybe when I later realized that, as I stuttered a discomfited reply, young Billy had dashed ninja-like into the kitchen and turned off the oven within the span of a few seconds (and no, fellow pilgrim, we did not realize the damage the little dear had done to my half-baked bird until some time afterward). Cousin Marissa’s pies were all burned, small children of unknown origin are building a cracker-and-cheese palace on my office rug, Aunt Veronica has already given me the sniff of disdain regarding my insensitive choice of scented candles, and Uncle Joseph insists on describing in detail to one and all the recent suffering he has undergone within his gastrointestinal tract.

In short, this is not a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.

Why is it, friend of my youth, that we must undergo these trials? I repent of the scoffing I formerly indulged in whenever a person bemoaned upcoming holidays with family. What on earth, I asked in my ignorance, could be so dreadfully awful about getting together with one’s own flesh and blood? And now I find myself hiding in my own bathroom, writing madly to ease the strain of bearing circumstances beyond my control.

The temptation is strong, I’ll admit, to make a sleeping bag out of the shower curtain and a towel and remain here until the morrow. The problem is that I know that, in about three minutes, I must check the turkey and once again join my extended family, and I cannot face them with irate cries denouncing the unmerited treatment under which I have suffered all this day. And why not, you ask? Surely such action would be justifiable, even in the most conservative of courts!

Sir, here is why not: the command is given me in black and white, “Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:14). Much as my heart groans under the ruined items, chafes beneath tactless conversation topics, and shudders below contemptuous glances, I cannot escape the Word that rules.

Let all that you do be done with love.

There is a choice involved. We choose to show love. We choose to be thankful for those around us. We choose to live above the circumstances.

The rug can be cleaned. Perhaps Freddie (second cousin once removed) could be bribed to pick up copious amounts of vanilla ice cream. Prompting Bert’s stories of his early life as an industrial beekeeper may bring conversations back to common ground.

Chuck your cat, Pongo, under the chin for me. Happy Thanksgiving, old fellow—I’m about to open the door.

                Yours, &c.,

                Joe Post

 

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Memorandum

To: All Men                                                        

Subject: Art and Eccentricities

Gentlemen,

I was surprised this morning to hit a fork in the proverbial road while packing for an upcoming visit with friends. Instead of taking Yogi Berra’s advice to pocket the thing, I froze. I pondered. I envisioned. Could I, I wondered, dare I? Temptation stared me in the eye in the form of my beloved mustard yellow loafers. An image rose before me: Mr. Post meandering down the sidewalk, impressing friends and fans with his pure edginess. There, they would say, goes a man who knows what’s what and doesn’t give a hoot. Sort of a Guccio Gucci meets Ernest Hemmingway. Granted, until that moment I had been content to limit my use of the shoes to moseying around the house, satisfied with appearing publicly in the more mellow costumes that comprise my wardrobe. Yes, wearing them in public might send a degree of shock through those friends under whose roof I was about to take refuge. But surely my bit of public flare could do no permanent damage?

It was a question of art.

That is, until I saw The Article.

A chance article caught my eye while I pondered the shoe question, and in a few minutes all became clear. This article (http://mic.com/articles/93600/this-is-the-latest-bizarre-viral-male-fashion-trend) expounded on a new “fashion statement” for men: floral beards. Having moved my critical eye recently in the direction of facial hair, I was intrigued. Then awed. Then I raised my eyebrow. What, I asked myself, would I think of a gentleman who trotted down the street wearing his grandmother’s best picks of the garden in his beard? Not edgy–merely bizarre and horrifyingly eccentric. Yes, the photos had a certain artistic element that could inspire reflection on the multifaceted natures of men. But the faces belonged to the privacy of one’s own home wall, not buying bananas next to you at the grocer’s.

Why? Perhaps, gentlemen, it has a link to that which Paul warns us about in Philippians 2:3-4—“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The important question is, why am I wearing shocking shoes? Why am I filling my beard with blossoms? Probably not to soothe the senses of society. Let’s face it: a person has every right, when they see a male walking down the road stuffing flowers into his beard, to duck into the nearest doorway and call 1-800-FOUND-A-NUT. There are times when art belongs at home. Take it to the street, and it becomes merely eccentricities.

Gentlemen, I was resolved, and thrust temptation far from my suitcase. My shoes belonged in the realm of art.

Yours, &c.,

Joe Post


Letter to Tobias

My Dear Tobias,

We are in the midst of that time again when the world sits up and realizes that it has, rather inexplicably, developed a healthy appetite for watching men with matching shirts vie with other men with matching shirts for control of a leather ball using mainly feet, foreheads, frowns, and occasionally, with demure subtlety, teeth. The World Cup is a global competition that reminds us all again of our common humanity, of the qualities which impel each of us to raise our heads high as our faces glow in the light of the oversized screen depicting tiny team players who deliberately ignore the sage advice we scream over the maniacal crowd whose fault it is that we are forced to stand on tip-toe raising our heads high–so high, in fact, that a pain has already developed in our abused necks. I wonder at times, my dear fellow, if the World Cup is sponsored by the International Guild of Chiropractors. But I digress.

The point is that competition brings out the best in…brings out many interesting things in all of us. I know you’re not much of a football–soccer, that is—fanatic; however, this worldwide competition has impressed upon me the need for you to make a drastic change in your life. It is time for you to compete. I believe exposure to a bit of healthy competition would not only increase the public’s opinion of your being the Impressively Well-Rounded Man, but also I have it on good authority that it could have a positive impact on your lumbago. Either that or it wasn’t a positive impact. But what, as the great philosophers say, are a few details between friends?

Old fruit, I know you shuddered only moments after reading the previous. Do not try to deny it. You’ve claimed to suffer from acute competition-induced Arachibutyrophobia–no, wait, that is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck on the roof of one’s mouth–ah yes, Ataxiophobia, for years. I’ve already heard the story of your traumatized elementary years, and as I’ve said before I’m sure that there are many other people–a few dozen, at least–who have similarly missed every single attempt to connect foot with ball during kickball PE classes in their entire elementary career. But that is beside the point, friend of my right hand, as the proposal which I will outline below involves the levels of muscle coordination and excess movement that you consider almost perfect: not an iota. Even better, this year’s meet will be held this fall in the rather accessible and colorful city of Portland, Oregon.

In short, I recommend that you enter the World Beard & Mustache Championship competition.

Before you raise your eyebrow in utter scorn, pause. Reflect. You sport an occasional moustache. Joining Beard Team USA (“It’s FREE!”) takes but a moment online and is magnanimously inclusive towards not only the bearded, but also the moustached and half-bearded. The competition’s web site states that judges consider “which contestant’s facial hair best enhances his overall appearance, style, and personality.” Although I’m afraid your appearance can’t be helped, you are invariably natty in style, and when the town criers inquire after your personality, I would be the first to confirm that you are most definitely your Aunt Bertha’s nephew. You have personality in piles. There is plenty enough for expression through a robust wisp of hair clinging to the upper lip, not unlike that of a tenacious limpet-on-pebble duo. In fact, to make your transformation into moustache-growing fiend free of difficulties, I have burdened myself with completing the necessary research, listing below the All You Need to Know regarding which moustache type to grow as gleaned from that ever-reliable resource for times both thick and thin, Lucien Edwards’ The Moustache Grower’s Guide.

Read on, old egg, and prepare to sprout.

1)       Crustache: Rather wispy, as in, not really a mustache, but sort of one. A few hairs involved. Takes about a month to grow.

2)      Toothbrush: Not what it seems–put your molar mop back into the bathroom cup. This one, it seems, can be visualized with two words: Charlie Chaplin. A little over a month.

3)      Chevron: Edwards recommends this for the faint-of-heart, describing its managed bushy look as a “shaggy inverted V over the upper lip.” About the same time to grow as the Toothbrush.

4)      Pencil: Once again, not actually a pencil. For the fuzzy little dead twin caterpillars gripping the upper lip look that results, this moustache sounds surprisingly difficult to develop. Think Clark Gable. Think why-on-earth-don’t-you-just-shave-it-off.

5)      Horseshoe: Now they start to get interesting–reflect on the last time you surreptitiously followed the every move of a nearby soup-eater, wondering how the person managed to keep their ‘stache from joining the waterlogged peas and carrots? That nose-to-chin wonder is this moustache.

6)      Walrus: Ha, ha! No, don’t do this one. It really does look like a walrus. Besides, it takes over three months to grow, and I’m afraid you haven’t the patience.

7)      Fu Manchu: See above “Horseshoe,” and then add several inches of finely waxed droop to the end. For a visual, find the nearest piece of ancient Chinese art, and study the depicted facial hair. Did I mention six or more months to grow? All I can say is, why? Was it an ancient rite-of-passage into the old boys’ soup club? One wonders.

8)      Handlebar: Pull out the wax. After three months, my dear fellow, you can trim and groom to your heart’s delight, curling the only section of hair acceptable for men to curl.

9)      Hungarian: Large. Hairy. Think a Handlebar for Russians (er, Hungarians). I must warn you here and now that Edwards states that this “is a look fitting for revolutionaries and other big movers and shakers…” Be careful if you choose to sport this, or before you know it you will have done something bold, such as taking that tag off your mattress that you were supposed to leave alone.

10)   English: Take the Fu Manchu and give it dignity by trimming and brushing it a bit before using wax and twisting to extend the ends towards your ears. Edwards hints as to the possibilities now available to increase your overall grandeur: “With its long, pliable ends, the English is a perfect starting point for creative growers. Let your imagination run wild as you bend and wax creative shapes. For special occasions or holidays, try shaping the ends into specific objects such as hearts or four-leaf clovers.” All I can say to this advice is that should you choose to sport four-leaf clovers on your face, it will not be only the World Cup soccer players who receive unsolicited advice from strangers in public places.

The clock has reminded me of a necessary appointment with my chiropractor. I must, you know, get myself clicked back into shape in time for tomorrow’s match. Meanwhile, my greatest hope is that, depending on your style choices, you will soon be able to answer a few questions for the good of the public: Is it truly possible to sport a Horseshoe or Handlebar and keep all food fragments from clinging lovingly to one’s face? What does one do with a Fu Manchu on a windy day? Is there any chance of being taken seriously while wearing a Pencil or Crustache? Who came up with the idea of the Walrus, anyway?

Remember to purchase an extra ticket for me, old chump; I want to cheer you on and offer sage advice during the competition, with all the loving gentleness and dignity I display during each World Cup game.

       Yours, &c.,

       Joe Post

 


A Note on Valentines

It is a well-known fact that February 15 is a significant date for males, the date in which each man realizes that it is already Too Late: in one day, he has become either a fêted success or a sorrowing failure. I extend my hearty congratulations and sincere condolences, the prior reserved, of course, for those in the first group, and the condolences for those in the latter. Now that nothing more may be done about it all until the next Valentine’s Day trots around the corner, I suggest, fellow men, that we seize the opportunity for reflection, strategies, and, later, a nap.

Consider, gentlemen, why you are in the group in which you find yourself post-V-Day. Those of you celebrating in the Success Club are all, I assume, men with both a steady, definite relationship and at least a sheep-sized brain. What I mean to say is, with the multitudinous media hints, digital and paper reminders, and aisles filled with all things pink and red as soon as Christmas Day hits midnight, it would take a brain the size of a peanut—and a lightweight one, at that—to mess up the chocolates/flowers/dinner combination that wins. The only other way you, dating/engaged/married man, are in the Failure Club after the Valentine frenzy has died down, is if you deliberately chose to ignore the tried-and-true and attempted Random Creativity, instead. If this is the case, I cannot help you beyond a raised eyebrow and a hope that the doghouse will teach you better than traditions apparently have.

To those of you in the Failure Club, I offer a glimpse of hope. Next year can be better. Presumably, you are one of the many belonging to that gray-clad group who Do Not Have a Definite Relationship, but there is Someone in your life who May Be Special, although You’re Not Sure Yet. You are “just friends,” and, therefore, Valentine’s Day epitomizes discomfiture. My hope is to alleviate your suffering by providing alternatives to the awkward card. Read on.

Situation 1: You and a lady often “hang out” in casual situations. You are hoping that the relationship will progress to a, shall we say, warmer level. What to do? A few days before February 14, send one of the small, premade SpongeBob Valentine cards through the mail with a short note on the back. Intelligent females will pick up the hint and be prepared for the ensuing movie date invite. (Note: Remember to actually follow up with a movie date invite, or you will be short one SpongeBob card for naught.)

Situation 2: You and a lady often “hang out” in casual situations. She is hoping the relationship will progress (as communicated several times to you through her best friend to your close friend to you). You, however, are about as open to this as to getting your tongue pierced with a rusty nail. How to handle the situation? I recommend chatting with her during the week before the 14th, cheerfully suggesting that she invite your friend Jim out for Valentine’s Day. Note, yawning, that you are planning to wash socks and iron shirts all day, and then leave quickly with the excuse that you need to clean the lint out of your dryer. Be aware that it is time to stop “hanging out” with the lady.

Situation 3: You are mildly acquainted with a lady, and you think you might be interested in her but you’re not ready to commit to exploring this possibility, and although you know you may regret not giving things a try, you are afraid of failing before you even begin. What is next? Grow, my dear fellow, up. Give the lady a rose on the 14th and see how she responds, or else buy a goldfish and a potted plant and accustom yourself to the single life.    

Good luck—my respects to you all.  

Yours, &c.,

Joe Post


Memorandum

To: All Men                                                        

Subject: Sochi Problems, and Other Subtleties

Gentlemen,

It has come to my attention that certain “issues” have arisen in the accommodations provided by Sochi for this year’s Winter Olympics. I am informed that guests smite their foreheads in dismay. Dickens, they cry, had it half wrong: it was only the worst of times, the age of foolishness, the epoch of incredulity, the season of Darkness, the winter of despair, and they had nothing before them. At least, that seems the only position to take when one reserves a hotel room five months in advance only to find upon arrival that not only is the room not available, but it has actually not yet been built.

What, I asked myself, ought a gentleman to do in such a situation? Your list of grievances is long, your patience short, and meanwhile your ticket to see the Canadian curling team slay their opponents is about to expire while you are fated to fuss with such frivolity as finding a dog-free place to lay the head at night. How, you gripe, is one to maintain dignity and poise in the face of such impediments? My hope, gentlemen, is that the following 10 Common Problems list may lend a guiding hand as you face the situations that surprise with spotless decorum.

1) Problem: Your reserved room is under construction.

Solution: Make friends with the construction crew chief ASAP (Read: $10 and a chocolate bar, given with a smile and handshake.). Politely request a corner in which to place your humble blanket for the night, plug your ears with socks, and place your valuables in your pillow before protecting your head with an upturned pot.

2) Problem: Your reserved hotel does not actually exist.

Solution: Clearly, this situation is the result of a minor error in construction planning. You have two options—one, stand for a few minutes at the nonexistent building location with a mildly puzzled look on your face before submitting a formal complaint to the Bureau of Tourism and sleeping on a park bench. Two, find another hotel.

3) Problem: You have a hotel room, but it has, well, difficulties (short beds, two toilets in the bathroom, no light bulbs or doorknobs).

Solution: Politely pretend that, rather than inconvenience you, these slight imperfections make you feel even more at home. Push the twin beds together and sleep on the diagonal. Put a spare table linen and flower vase on the twin toilet and treat it as the très chic coffee table it was meant to be. Borrow light bulbs from the matched set of floor lamps in the lobby (Hint: Wait until a large group of tourists monopolizes the attention of the burly hotel receptionist and desk clerk.). Be grateful for the increased airflow afforded by missing doorknobs and practice deep breathing exercises with gusto.

4) Problem: You have a hotel room, but it contains a stray dog.

Solution: Attempt to release it gently to the wild. If it indicates a strong preference for domestic living, go sleep under the table linen in the lobby.

5) Problem: The hotel does not have water.

Solution: Lay out the laminated tourism brochures and the plastic wrap covering your drinking glass on the miniature balcony to collect the morning dew. This should yield 0.5 oz of brown water, approximately enough to wash behind your ears.

6) Problem: The hotel does have water, but it is brown.

 Solution: See prior solution. Then buy bottled water by the kiloliter.

7) Problem: You strongly suspect there are surveillance cameras in your hotel room’s bathroom.

Solution: Develop a sudden appreciation for showering in your robe, and then find the nearest McDonald’s and make friends with the manager (see Solution #1 for making friends hint).

8) Problem: You get stuck in the bathroom.

Solution: May I take this moment to express my approval of Johnny Quinn’s quick thinking and strategic moves in a similar situation, and suggest a parallel course of action—if a few polite coughs and requests for assistance fail to produce, punch through the door. This is not the time to be subtle.

9) Problem: You are surprised to note that the hotel front desk area lacks a floor.

Solution: Articulate admiration and delight at the hotel’s artistic commentary on existentialism. Mention that, in contrast to your artistic tastes, you are more of a traditionalist when it comes to breakfast, and would prefer that it involve a solid egg with toast and coffee.

10) Problem: There is no elevator in the shaft.

Solution: Take the stairs.

Gentlemen, I urge your application of this lowly counsel, wishing your future foreign adventures to be continually colorful while remaining

Yours, &c.,

Joe Post

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304680904579366712107461956

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/olympics/media-reports-sochiproblems-olympic-village-article-1.1602530

 


Chapter 2: Proper Behavior for Eating Out, Part II

Prudence

Prudence, as defined by Webster, means “wisdom with regard to practical matters.” It was also a popular name in Puritan times for ladies. When combined, both pieces of information prove useful to modern men as they ponder asking females to go out on nice dates: be wise in regard to practical matters involving ladies. In a word, prepare before eating out. One of the first things than any female—wife, girlfriend, “just a friend”—will notice when you take her out to dine is whether or not you spent any time planning. The more effort you put into preparation for the date, the more “points” you score with your companion. If you don’t spend any time arranging details, you will be regarded as a Chump. In order to pull off a truly successful dining-out experience, therefore, you must invest time in the following several preparation areas.

The first prep work step is finding out what sort of materials you have to work with in the culinary realm (Tip: avoid most fast food restaurants for a “nice” date, unless, of course, you are a Dirt-Poor Student or a Stingy Chump that Won’t Even Buy a Decent Meal). Ask friends for recommendations, check the phonebook, search online. Part of this step includes pricing the restaurants to see what you can afford; keep in mind, however, that the nicer the place, the more points you score. Sometimes this means that you must put off buying that new power tool until next month, but the sacrifice will be worth it when she agrees that you Really Are Quite Wonderful. Another part of this step entails checking the restaurant’s menu and atmosphere: find out what food is offered, the overall food quality, what type of setting surrounds the table for two, which music genre prevails, and if the soloist has that frightful habit of jumping on the table for a final burst of romantic song while sticking his toe in your cordon bleu.

The next planning area—and I think that we can all agree that this is a necessary step to eating somewhere with a lady—is to actually ask the lady to dine out with you. Yes, the mere thought of this step may make you feel as Humpty did upon the realization that the wall upon which he rested was just a smidge too narrow. Perhaps even now the flashback angst of handing over a Valentine to that first middle school crush freezes your hand every time it reaches for the fateful phone. It is possible you belong to that club of Hopeless Idealists who “hang out” at popular restaurants every evening on the chance that the Significant Female will happen to walk in alone, spot you, and solicit the privilege of filling the empty seat in your table for two. Let me assure you, manly reader, that I empathize with your nervous suffering as you consider asking the Significant Female to dinner; unless, of course, your S.F. happens to be your wife (possible exception: your wife is that direct female descendant of Attila the Hun).

Fortunately, you need only select one of many methods for convincing a lady that, unbeknownst to her, what she really wants is to go out with YOU. For the fainthearted, calling the lady on the phone completes the mission without giving her cause to ask if you really are quite cold, or do your knees always shake like that? Calling is an option, however, only on the assumption that—by stealing, bribery, begging, or other necessary actions—you managed to secure the lady’s phone number. Talking with the lady face-to-face is a practical alternative, but should only be attempted by the more stouthearted or stupid of men. If neither choice suits you, there remains one option for you to employ: the Creative Option (I will warn you, though, that this requires the use of creativity and time; if you lack in the creative department, do not despair—books on the subject or counseling options are available). Examples of the Creative Option in action could include sending her a hand-made formal invitation to the date, leaving a bouquet of flowers with attached note for her to find, sending her a picture-postcard of the restaurant with a “You Could Be Here” and invitation on the back, etc.

It is, of course, much easier to ask the lady if you happen to be married to her. However, it would be wise of you to periodically employ the Creative Option even for asking your wife out, as this would refresh her memory on that very important point: you still are the man who Really Is Quite Wonderful. Whoever you ask out, though, and whichever method you use, remember to tell the lady the following information (you may want to write this down and tape it to your forehead): your name, the place where you will eat, the day and time of the date, transportation details, and, if appropriate, proper dress (formal, casually-formal, etc.). If fitting, also mention approximately when you believe you will return. Do not: give her your credit card information, mention that you’re extremely nervous—dying, in fact, of pure fright—or, under any circumstances, ask her if she sells sea shells by the seashore.

The final area of preparation for the date includes scouting out, attacking, and conquering all of the minor personal details which, if ignored, can congregate, form ranks, and ambush when you aren’t looking. These include more than washing and waxing your car and facial/top hair. Remember, ladies notice the small things, so pay attention to details such as what you are going to wear (see Chapter 1), personal grooming (shaving, deodorant, breath mints, etc.), crisis car kit (umbrella, Kleenex, more breath mints, Bugz-B-Gone spray, emergency $10 bill, Swiss Army knife, gorilla tape, hair goop), flowers for the lady, music for the car, a few tasteful jokes/anecdotes/conversation-starters for the back pocket (NOT of the “Did You Hear the One About the Duck…” genre, or anything your remember from the middle school cafeteria), list of necessary date facts described earlier, and your (full) wallet. Naturally, this list will not suffice if your date includes something dangerous such as rock-climbing or meeting her parents, but I leave the rest to your discretion.


Letter to Tobias

My Dear Tobias,

Your letter found its way into my post box yesterday morning along with a notice from Random Publisher’s Clearing House declaring, surprisingly,  that I May Have Already Won $1,000,000—give or take spare change—and a coupon book for dental hygiene products. I was mildly offended; upon whose recommendation had the clean teeth police made a negative judgment regarding my ability to complete the daily brush and floss? Needless to say, the Random Publisher’s Clearing House announcement created a degree of skepticism that quickly followed on the heels of my initial glee—we all know how instant money creates more problems that it resolves. I didn’t even consider sending in the personal information required, for a brief reflection on the number of unknown relatives who would leap spritely from the bushes to declare undying kinship was enough to prompt my setting the papers firmly in the wastebasket. What, I asked myself, would I do with a quick $1,000,000 (give or take spare change), anyway?

Your letter, however, soothed the ruffled feathers. That is, until I read your post script: “See attached papers for moments of amusement.” Well, my lad, chuckle I did as I read those New Year’s Resolutions lists from two of your nephews. What struck me after the initial hilarity over length and detail, however, was how perfectly each nephew exemplified one of two popular camps of New Year’s Resolution-ers. Similar to the one nephew, a great number of males now seem to create a master Bucket List of Things to Do This Year or Before I Get Married, covering every possible thing—doing what it takes to look like one could enter next year’s Mr. Universe competition, knitting in the dark, tickling a hippopotamus’ forehead. It’s as if a sign in the middle of the Serengeti ominously states: “Do not tickle the hippos unless it is still 2014 or you are unmarried, can knit in the dark, and look like Mr. Universe,” and further, should one run into such a sign while not fulfilling the requirements, one’s life would be ruined and one may as well get married or else call the year a wash.

How, I ask you, did this inexplicable Bucket List trend begin? One wonders whether now there are simply not enough sane, busy, necessary things going on in daily life and thus young people are forced to plan the spontaneous, or perhaps such lists provide the young with a written excuse for shirking the responsibilities that come with age? I would be the first to admit that, should I be invited while wandering the African plains to tickle a hippopotamus on its brow, I would do so with a proper sense of curiosity and a solid life insurance policy. However, what would you think of me, old fellow, if I dropped everything and trotted over to Tanzania with the express purpose of noting a hippo’s reaction when treated to light, rhythmic motions of my nimble fingers on its rubbery temple? I venture to be so bold as to say that you would, I believe, raise the eyebrows not a little.

Your other nephew, in contrast, exemplifies the glories of the Don’t Do List club. In some ways this group astonishes me even more than the previous one, the underlying assumption driving this crowd being that one can, by sheer will enforced through the strength of an annual sticky-note record, NOT do the many things that everyone else—without the aid of a list—does. Do not eat sugar. Do not get angry. Do not eat gluten. Do not not forgive others. Do not eat Twinkies. Do not skip flossing. Do not eat anything, except cabbage soup and hummus. Somehow this group missed the memo that we are all fallen creatures, and no matter how earnest our intentions, we will inevitably mess up. Consider this firm example: No matter how many times I have resolved—in writing, no less—to refrain from using your Aunt Bertha’s annual Christmas meatloaf as a doorstop, I fail. Every year. My intentions are of the best and brightest, but invariably as time passes my resolve weakens, and before I know it the loaf is assisting the door in its daily duties. What is needed is more than merely jotting another Don’t Do down; what is needed is a change of heart, or a new recipe.        

Frankly, old beetle, I’ve rather dispensed with the beginning-of-the-year Resolves To Do or Not To Do. One can find much better for-the-moment guidance from the Creator than from one’s silly clay-bound self. We are reminded over and over in the Word and in personal experiences that we can only thrive and do what is good by God working in and through us as we walk with Him each moment, here and now, today. “‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing…If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love…This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'” (Jn. 15:5, 10, 12); “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13); “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13). Abiding, listening, obeying each moment ought to keep me, I think, pretty busy. Everything else will fall into place in His good time.

And now I had better get back to taking down the dead tree in my living room. It is unfortunate, really, that I did not put “stub toe on table leg” on a 2014 Bucket List, because I could have just crossed it off a second ago. Perhaps I should have rather jotted it onto a Don’t Do List and thereby prevented this unfortunate event. Regardless, old egg, I wish you well this beginning of the year—so much so, in fact, that I have decided to forward your information to the Random Publisher’s Clearing House people with the recommendation that they give their extra money to your deserving self. If the money comes through, though, please note that I expect to accompany you on a cruise to Alaska—I’ve always wanted to see what would happen if I stuck my tongue on a glacier.           

            Happy New Year—give Pongo my regards in the form of small kitty kibbles.

            Yours, &c.,

            Joe Post


Memorandum

To: All Men

Subject: Beards (or, “The Alluring Savage”)

Gentlemen,

A friend recently shared an article unfolding the copious benefits of growing facial hair, all carefully researched facts gleaned from strict scientific experiments involving mannequins in Australia (http://www.realfarmacy.com/beards-keep-you-young-healthy-handsome-says-science/). The fascinating article brought to mind a subject that has been, well, on my mind, it being that time of year—post-Christmas photo, pre-New Year resolutions—in which men around the globe gingerly pull out and dust off an old desire dear to their hearts: growing a beard. Once upon a time when we were very young and skinny and short, we men did secret happy dances in the bathroom upon the discovery of the first quivering chin hair. If we were lucky, the first was accompanied by a supporting second or third—not luscious enough to braid Viking-style, one understands, but regardless, the moment sparked a proud march out of said bathroom that lasted until the crossing of one’s sister in the hallway. The grating peals of laughter that immediately accompanied her first horrified scrutiny put us off our facial hair until we were old enough to vote.

Now, however, we are adult. It is time to put the painful past out with the empty eggnog cartons. It is time to Grow a Beard.

Fellow man, you may protest that the Significant Female in your life would have a cow. Or, not having a S.F. in your life, you moan that The Beard would draw women to you with all the attraction of the wrong ends of a magnet. What you do not realize, Miserable Chump, is that all women are, in the depths of their hearts, batty about beards.

“How so?” you exclaim. “Are you potty, Post? Under the tree only yesterday sat an electric foil shaver from Hammacher Schlemmer with my name under the To and hers under the From.” Allow me to enumerate.   

Contrary to the views espoused by our enlightened media, women do not want men to look and act like women. Tight clothing, flapping hands, and ironic, simpering giggles do not, in the end, Cut It. Women like men because men are Different. Although women wave their arms and scream about gender equality, that is merely because they want your job, or they don’t want your job but want to be able to have your job should they for some reason change their minds and want your job, after all. It is not because they want men to be like women: there is a world of difference between their wanting women to act like men and wanting men to act like women. The former is none of our business; let the latter, conversely, never occur.

Gentlemen, my position stands in unreserved support of the Civilization and Cultivation of Men, the Refinement of their Tastes, the High Quality of their Socks, the Sophistication of their Manners. We must, however, acknowledge the fact that, in the end, there is only the Cave Man. The savage that is you is what rings true in the hearts of women—they hate that you walk around the kitchen in muddy boots, but secretly thrill that it didn’t occur to your manly embarrassed self to take them off. This curious phenomenon manifests itself most readily in conjunction with male facial hair.     

Consider your position: There you are Christmas evening, your shaved, suave self, clad to the nines in polished shoe and shining tie. The heart of your Significant Female flutters appreciatively—what a civilized, nice fellow. What she doesn’t realize is that it is already Too Late; under your shiny shirt front you have already taken the first step towards reasserting your Male Independence. You turn up the next day mildly bristly. Busy man—he surely forgot to shave. Halfway to New Year’s the surprising fact has dawned on her that you Are Not Shaving. You are growing a beard. Your S.F. may startle, bluster, even protest. But underneath that flustering exterior your S.F. is impressed by something that failed to overwhelm your sister so many years ago: you can create something on your face by pure inactivity. Merely because you want to do so, you can Grow a Beard. You choose to grow one because You Are Savage. And, darn it, if the Wheaties aren’t out on the counter for breakfast tomorrow morning, you’ll know what to do about it!

Her heart will throb. You wear the beard that wins.

Gentlemen, regarding your face this winter I present my most humble advice, wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas season and joy-filled New Year while remaining

Yours, &c.,

Joe Post

 


Letter to Tobias

My Dear Tobias,

My heartfelt commendations, dear fellow, on your impressive exhibit of self-discipline. The iron grip with which you have taken yourself in hand today inspires one to do something drastic and surprising oneself; I would go so far as to admit—and I say this with the utmost modesty—that your actions lay behind my decision this evening to substitute in my tea organic brown sugar crystals for my usual white cubes. Why, I ask you, should the earth not shudder twice in one day?

Having consumed said cup of evening tea, sheltered kitchen-blistered feet in moose moccasins, and tucked a final wedge of pumpkin pie lovingly near my elbow, I will indulge myself yet further as I put pen to paper by picturing the scene of today’s triumph. There you sat, Aunt Bertha opposite you at the foot of the table, magnificent in the victory of her annual bataille de cuisine. Little William categorically plucked marshmallows from the Jell-O salad while Uncle Frank tested the carving knife on Flossie’s napkin and you sweat more profusely than the turkey set steaming in front of your plate. Family, you reminded yourself, family. Family and thankfulness. Family and thankfulness and, darn it, you didn’t technically NEED to replace your Oxfords, herringbone fedora, and Black Stewart muffler! Even for the 50% reduction you would receive with your Macy’s Black Thursday coupon, good until 11:59 p.m. of this date!

Yet the battle waged on, dear friend, in your panicking mind. You could excuse yourself  after dinner to the bathroom, force your savings-crazed self through the upper bathroom window, and then drive to the downtown Macy’s, giving a decent rendition of your Uncle Frank’s historic trip when little William was about to enter the world. Grab the goods, wave plastic at the checker, and be back before the whipping cream had given up all hope of a peaceful resolution.  

Happily, reason began to work again. Your brain politely pointed out that the Battle of the Bulge was over and done with and, even sans turkey dinner, your bathroom window could hardly be expected to reenact that event with aplomb. Furthermore, a scene rose in your mind’s eye of the trampling, screaming, grabbing, hair-pulling and pepper spray-wielding crowds that were at that very moment forcing their way through the doors of major stores around the nation, crowds that not only were finding the deals of a century a WHOLE DAY EARLY (no doubt gleefully snatching those menswear winter essentials dear to your heart), but were also enlivening what could have been a slow, boring, family-packed day for store employees, security guards, and policemen everywhere.

These crowds were unappealing to you.     

The lid is lifted from the mashed potatoes, revealing gloriously frothy clouds cradling golden pools of melted butter. A voice is raised in a prayer of thanksgiving. Familiar eyes smile around the table, and you poke your thumb in an obliging olive.

You stay home.

And thus I raise my bite of pie to you, old chum, knowing as I do your—dare I call it obsession?—for both shoes and bargains. Contrary to popular opinion in the major-retail CEO clubs, Thanksgiving is not a national pig-out holiday that could be just as easily enjoyed on any old day, and I applaud you and all bargain hunters who put down your foot and picked up your fork in support of a day of rest and thanksgiving. You resisted temptation. The heart of steel is at peace.     

As you begin shuffling around the remains of this year’s feast, may I remind you of what happened last year when you fed dark turkey meat to Pongo. “Forewarned is foresomething, something,” you know.  

Happy Thanksgiving Day, old fish.

Yours, &c.,

Joe Post

 

 


Memorandum

To: All Men

Subject: Guidelines for Miniature Golf

Gentlemen,

A young friend of mine recently passed through an unnerving experience, one for which he felt utterly at loss and unprepared. Not only did he strongly feel the inadequacy of his skill, equipment, and wardrobe, but also he was forced to battle through this trial in a mixed company that included his Adored Female, all beholding, he believed, his agony. What, you may well inquire, was the nature of this trial of fire?

It involved a metal stick, pocked ball, and a series of Astroturf segments bordered with brightly- painted cement, the humble home of a sport casually known as “miniature golf.” You are wondering, I believe, how this pleasant pastime could be a source such of discomfort to the poor fellow? Does not one stand generally to one side or the other and, with a light stroke, send the ball towards a designated hole, avoiding obstacles and minor rodents along the way? What more guidelines could be needed than not smiting other golfers with stick or ball? Ah, but you have forgotten the fundamental element determining a gentleman’s success in the mixed-group mini golf world: the method he uses in approaching the game. There are, of course, two main courses of behavior by which a gentleman may guide his actions, depending on whether he is a Golfer or a Non-Golfer. For those who may be unsure whether they belong to the first or second group, please note: the first group may be defined as gentlemen who can casually and accurately use the term “links,” own at least two pairs of plaid shorts, and have hit golf balls around a “real golf course” at least once. The latter group consists of any gentleman not belonging to the first group. Once you have determined your group membership, follow the corresponding behavior guidelines below for approaching a miniature golf course with a mixed group.

Non-Golfers: If you belong in this group, I recommend taking what I call the “Non-Dominant Hand Approach” to the game. This mini-golf method is based on the theory that, being a non-golfer, you will struggle your way across the course regardless of which hand or position you take when hitting the ball. You could hit the ball with your eyes closed and, assuming that you actually hit the ball, get approximately the same results as that which rewards you after long, strenuous minutes of measuring, eyeballing, sweating, and careful striking. The “Non-Dominant Hand Approach” allows you to take this apparent weakness and turn it into a type of, if not quite strength, at least a less Chump-oriented type of weakness. With proper flair, this method may even raise your standing in the eyes of an Adored Female in the group.

1)      Refresh your memory regarding which is your dominant hand. If you can’t remember, grab a Sharpie and quickly write your name on the back of the shirt gracing the figure of the nearest Golfer gentleman in the group. Not only will this enable you to discover your dominant hand, but also it will boost your confidence beautifully—I might recommend accompanying the autograph with a “There you are, laddie—that’ll be worth something someday.”

2)      Next, when it is your turn to play, position yourself on the opposite side of the Astroturf segment than you would if you were playing on your dominant side, meaning if you are right-handed, play like a leftie, and visa-versa (Helpful Hint: A right-handed man positions himself on the left side of the ball, so to follow this method effectively, position yourself on the right side of the ball.). Do not let on that anything unusual is happening—if someone questions your position, laugh sardonically and raise your eyebrow while smiling mysteriously (Recommendation: Practice this a few times in the mirror at home before springing it on the public, or you risk imitating the face of the mighty orangutan as it misses the intended vine.).

3)      Prepare for action. Before you swing, grab a fist of grass and toss it nonchalantly in the air, accompanied with another raised eyebrow and a “Hmm!” before shifting your position slightly. Do not forget at this point the ever-important Waggle, in which you lightly swing your club over the ball without hitting it, and thus distract yourself from thinking about the damage you are about to do; limit yourself to two or three swings, however, or the female specimen waiting her turn may bean you with her club.

4)      Once the Waggle is complete, immediately put your all into a light, gentle, strategic tap that will send your ball spinning merrily into the hole. If this does not happen—and it will not, ever, until you play by yourself with no one around or else learn to play on a “real golf course” where these wonders happen all the time—then retrieve your golf ball from the bushes in which it landed, pretend that nothing strange has happened, and place it carefully back on the course near the point of exit. This part is most easily completed if, the moment after hitting the ball, you twitch violently and gasp with a horrified look while pointing somewhere behind you, shouting, What in the world was that dark, furry thing in the bushes? Oh, you didn’t see it? Well, it’s gone now. By that time, you will have successfully replaced your golf ball on the appropriate Astroturf segment. Continue in this manner until the completion of the course, and you will be prepared for your final Triumphant Moment.

5)      The TM itself: As the rest of the group finishes the final hole and you quietly note that your final score is approximately equivalent to multiplying the sum of the others’ total scores by ten to the third power, smile in a casual manner, laugh optimistically, and as the true winner completes her happy dance, confidently exclaim how much fun it was to try playing with your non-dominant hand! No, really, I’m actually right-handed—this was a hilarious experience for me! I will have to practice playing more with my non-dominant hand if I am to play with it as fantastically as with my dominant hand! At this point, yawn politely, slap a Golfer’s shoulder in a friendly manner, and then excuse yourself politely after sending the Adored Female a winning smile.

Golfers: If you belong in this group, then do not worry—miniature golf life is open to you like a free basket of fruit. My advice is to blame any mismanaged hits on your being used to playing at a “real golf course,” and then send a pointed look to a nearby Non-Golfer while making vague references to the U.S. Open; this routine has been known to bring around that Adored Female in the group to asking for your autograph by the end of the course. Also note that, being a true Golfer, you are licensed to laugh merrily and slap the dejected shoulder of Non-Golfers in a friendly manner as they miss hit after hit on the course. I would not recommend overdoing this routine, however, or the next time you meet the Non-Golfer he may casually drop a bowling ball on your toe.         

Gentlemen, I present my modest guidance, hoping for your miniature golfing days to be ebullient this summer while remaining

Yours, &c.,

Joe Post