Dear John

There’s some irony here. So many letters have started with those words, “Dear John,” that it’s become a verb – to Dear John someone is to say goodbye, usually in the regard that the author is leaving the relationship.

In this case, far from the author doing the leaving, we are in the process of saying goodbye to my good friend John Morgan. I had the good fortune to be his neighbor for the past 23 years and enjoyed many a late evening discussing his Random Observations About This and That. If I have a regret, it’s that we never turned those observations into a blog. My three lunatic children knew him as something between an uncle and a bonus grandfather, and SOBUMD and I knew him as a great friend.

I got to spend some time with him in the days before he passed, and I asked him how he was doing. “I’m checking out,” he said. Since we’d talked about such things several times before, I simply replied, “Are you ready?”

“Oh, I’m more than ready.” After that, our conversation ranged from international travel to family to current events. Here, even in his last days, he went on to compare some of the present political animosities to the various contretemps between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. To hang out with John was always an education, and his students – official and otherwise – were always better for it. We shall miss his good cheer and friendly visage.

John’s family generously offered me the honor of speaking at his service yesterday, and with their kind permission I will post my remarks here:

Good afternoon.

What I shall miss most about John was his love for words and wordplay. He once called me out of the blue and asked me, “What do you call a brief ode concerning the harsh realities of life?” I replied that I didn’t know, and he said, “An Itty Bitty Ditty on the Shitty Nitty Gritty.”

You can take the professor out of the classroom, but you can’t take the professor out of the man. John used to assign me homework. I found this very interesting the first time it happened since (1) He was retired, (2) I knew him as my neighbor a few doors down, and (3) I had no recollection of enrolling in any classes.

None of that bothered John in the slightest. We had gotten into a discussion about insurance, and he said, “You’re the poet, write a poem about that.” I laughed – but a week later, I found myself compelled to write A Poem About Insurance and I presented it to him. About a week after that … he graded it. It was just who he was. I will note that this was not a one-off; this happened several times over the years.

Conversation with John was always fun, because he found things “interesting.” It was just who he was. He was fascinated by the little absurdities of life, he was alternately marvelously entertained and endlessly irritated by people in general, and he was steadfast in his defense of the rights of the individual – all individuals, even the ones who irritated him.

And now, if you’ll forgive me, I would like to hand in one final piece of homework, albeit late, using the title he assigned. I present An Itty Bitty Ditty on the Shitty Nitty Gritty:

From time immemorial, people have told stories of giants.
Through those handed-down stories, giants become real to us,
fee-fie-foe-fumming around in our subconscious minds,

and becoming part of our collective cultural experience.
As a storyteller, John kept many of those giants real for us,
Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the like,

whether in the classroom or the living room,
John brought those hallowed dead back to vivid human life,
as looking-glasses for us to examine ourselves and our time.

While storybook giants are always with us,
it is in the nature of individual giants to pass into history,
and so become their own stories.

We, who had the good fortune to know him,
will now tell stories about John,
keeping him real for all of us

so that we can stand on his shoulders,
and stand up for the rights of our fellow people,
even the ones who irritate us.

Thank you.

Monday ManFAQ

A long time ago, before many people were even thinking about quarantine, or impeachment, or how long it had been since they’d last showered, Friday meant answer time at the ManFAQ. People, and by people I mean women, would send me questions, and as part of my parole agreement a public service I answered them, to help demystify the more malodorous gender for those of the gentler.

This went on for about a year and a half, and I thought I’d answered all the questions.

Today, though, is different. Today, a new question has come up. And as usual, I do mean UP. So here we go again, by request, actual questions, posed by real women, and answered by a REAL man. What could go wrong?

Question:   Do all of our not-sexy pajamas vs sexy pajamas choices even make a difference in the level of the hard sell… or do men not even notice the difference?

Answer:    I will tell you a story. To protect the guilty, I will change the names. My friend, who is certainly not named Greg, went a-travelling some years ago, with a co-worker (whose name is no more germane to our story than Greg’s is, but it’s more fun quoting Greg). I will add that Greg is, or anyway was at the time, a suave and good looking guy, worldly, morally upstanding, and righteous before the lord. You know the kind I mean. His co-worker was a brilliant woman, a leader as well as a funny and kind person. She also happened to be very attractive. She also happened to be married, a condition that did not at the time plague our man Greg.

It turned out that she also happened to be horny, a condition which with our Greg was afflicted reasonably often, being as how he’s a guy. (I feel that I can say with some degree of certainly that he’s still afflicted with this condition reasonably often, since he’s still breathing.) Long story short, she entered his hotel room to talk about the meeting they had the next day, and she put the question of Hey Hey to him.

He said no.

She said OK, and stepped into the bathroom to fix her makeup, leaving the door open.

Being a man for whom words were in no short supply, he expounded on his answer very eloquently, so as not to hurt her feelings, with great tenderness, and in the spirit of friendship, and loyalty, with a discussion of their workplace relationship, and of her husband, known to our man Greg, and of her many wonderful qualities as a co-worker and a friend.

When he wound down from his prolixity, she stepped out of the bathroom, without a word. She was wearing, as you say, sexy PJs.

She looked at him.

“Did you hear all of what I just said?” asked Greg.


“Yeah, never mind. And Take. That. Off.”

Now you know – we notice. We ALWAYS notice. We might not always engage, but we really do notice!

Please, feel free to comment! Also, forward any questions you’d like answered to BUMD – at –!

It’s Always the Pangolins With You People

Wu Yuanbin said that regarding the South China Agricultural University team’s suggestion that pangolin may be one of the intermediate hosts of the new coronavirus, the relevant scientific research team is being organized to test this hypothesis. Research on the spread of new coronavirus from pangolin to humans is also being stepped up.  (

What is it with you soft-bellied bipeds and taking responsibility for once?  New virus outbreak?  Blame the Pangolins.  Too many insects in the crops?  Blame the Pangolins.  Bernie won’t stop muddying the Democratic primaries?  Pangolins.  Why is it any time there’s a new global disaster, someone’s doing a Pangolin hit piece in the New Republic? 

Really, we’re getting pretty sick of taking the fall for every little thing that goes wrong with you people.  You’ve been doing it for years.  JFK?  Blame the Pangolins.  Do you know the most redacted word in the Mueller report?  Of course you don’t, that’s what redacted means, but I’ll give you a hint:  Starts with a P, rhymes with angolin. 

Kid won’t go the fuck to sleep?  Invoke the giant pangolins.  Like it’s our fault Mrs. Knowles brought cupcakes to preschool again and little Johnny ate more sugar than most third-world families see in a month.  Jimmy Hoffa?  Well, ok, yeah, that was us.  You do NOT fuck with a pangolin.  You’ll never find that crooked son of a bitch.  But that’s not the point.

The point is you don’t take responsibility.  Pangolins didn’t meddle in the election – humans did. Pangolins didn’t eat the plums in the icebox you were probably saving for breakfast.  Humans did.  Pangolins aren’t making sea levels rise, or causing respirator mask shortages, or forcing old rich white guys to run for president.  Quit blaming us for your shit, and take your “novel” coronavirus and stick it where the moon don’t shine.  I swear just thinking about it makes me want to curl up into an oversized pinecone and wait it out. 

So, sure, go ahead and tell yourselves it’s the Pangolins when you’re coughing all that Wuhan death-market dust out of your lungs.  How about not selling our scales as medicine for a change?  You know what I hear cures coronavirus?  Dried, ground up politician penis.  Try selling that on the black market.  It would be nice to balance the scales for once.  Scales, get it?  That’s a joke.  God, you’re dumb. 

The thing is, we don’t need to mess with you. You’re messing things up just fine on your own. You’re so full of yourselves and your xenophobic blame-someone-else mentality that you don’t even notice it – you’re like lemurs, but without the cute fur.  You don’t see lemurs complaining about new viruses. 

So just like the Earth, your temperature is going up 3 degrees?  We don’t care.

It’ll all be ours when you’re gone.  Then we can blame you for a change.

Farewell to the Decade

Twenty Twenty. 24 hours to go, but even less than that now, and this would have been a good decade to be sedated – at least for the tail end.

It started pretty well. From the start of 2010 through the end of 2012, there were, to my surprise as much as anything, 414 separate BUMD posts and updates. From 2013 onward, there have been 83 posts in the remainder of this decade, including this one. I can no longer imagine having the time, much less the energy, to write that much. I would love to vow to get back on that track and get back to writing more, but that would look too much like a campaign promise – sounds great, sells well, followup unlikely. The only difference is that I would, in fact, mean it. Honest!

Turning our thoughts to the end of the year looks better. Decades are big, complicated things to wrap up and review; that’s why we invented years in the first place – they’re like little bite sized chunks of a decade that we can tear off with our teeth, and if ever there was a year that needed to be ripped out with our teeth, man, 2019 might be the one.

That said, it wasn’t all bad. I posted in 2017 a short guide for the next 4 years, and those 4 years are coming due. We need to continue to persevere, to persist, and to punch above our weight class in speaking truth not just to power but to ignorance, in speaking acceptance to intolerance, in speaking the language of love to the rhetoric of hate.

Those are good words – I’m good at that. (Go read them again, if you like; I’ll wait. Feel free to use them.) But action is harder. I haven’t done a lot, personally, to foster those conversations – I haven’t marched, I haven’t protested, I haven’t even learned to knit pussy hats. I have noticed some good examples, though, outside of politics. There are a few things – a few people, really – that just make the world a smaller, kinder, and perhaps more hopeful place.

One of them is a friend we call Auntie Jenny. She started a Facebook group dedicated to living with mindful intention, to setting small, attainable goals, and to generally being there for people. It’s grown to more than 1500 people and has turned into a community of devotees who mostly try to channel their inner Mr. Rogers – posting their triumphs and tragedies, offering advice when asked and consolations, commiserations, or congratulations when not. Imagine! Complete strangers posting intimate details about their lives to the Internet and receiving validation and support. Weird, right? It makes me happy.

Another person who makes me happy is one I’ve written about before:
Pita Taufatofua, the well-oiled Tongan. If he qualifies for Tokyo this coming July, he will be one of only 15 people to have participated in 3 Olympics in a row, and possibly the only one to do so in 3 different sports. He seems by all accounts to be a terrifically good-natured person, dedicating his life to showing the world what a human can accomplish if they really put their somewhat crazy mind to it. (Yes, it helps that he’s impossibly good looking.) Like Auntie Jenny, I think he sets an example of the greatness of the human spirit. I just sent him a few dollars to help keep him in his kayak; you can help here if you’re inclined – or even if you just like looking at oiled up muscles on the big screen!

You don’t always see words like “nice” next to words like “indomitable,” but there you have it: These are nice people who, with indomitable wills, are doing their own small part to make the world a little bit nicer, maybe a little weirder, and setting an example from which I take some hope – we CAN make a difference. We can create small communities of considerate people, which can create bigger communities and eventually, nations. Eventually, worlds.

Which brings me to the last part of 2019. The Queen Mother of Pink left us this February, and this will be my first New Year’s Eve year in something like 20 years that I don’t call her at the stroke of midnight, yell “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit,” and hang up. Well, I tried to hang up, but half the time she’d say it first because she always knew it was me. She’d remind me that it was her dad’s birthday, and she’d stay up every year to toast him and wish him a happy birthday. I’d give her an increasingly brief update on the kids and that would be that. It was harder as she got deafer, but she always knew it was me, and yelled all the right things even when I was pretty sure she couldn’t hear me in the first place. Last year, she called me around 10pm my time and said, “Rabbit rabbit rabbit, I’m more than a hundred years old and I’m going to bed!”

She was a nice person with an indomitable will, and she left the world a little bit nicer, a little goofier, and she set an example from which I take some hope.

In 2020, I will hope to see the good in people who have good in them. I will hope to notice early and reasonably avoid those people (and they’re out there) who don’t. I can’t be Greta Thunberg, or Pita, or even Auntie Jenny, but I can be myself. I can remember to think before I speak and – with intention – I can speak truth to ignorance, speak acceptance to intolerance, and speak the language of love to the rhetoric of hate. And so can you.

Happy New Year to you all!


I Have Some Reservations About Waiting

Saturday was a day. And by a day, I mean moving the Human Tape Recorder back to college, which was an exercise in waiting in lines, and then driving SOBUMD to her MRI, which was an exercise in waiting in rooms, and then getting dinner, which was an exercise in saying “Huh?”

On the college side, the waiting was for a large cart, into which one can load most (but not all) of the first SUVful of one’s stuff. (She’s an upperclasswoman now – it takes 2 SUVfuls of stuff to properly outfit her half of the room.) To acquire a cart, the HTR had to provide her student ID, phone number, proof of residency, blood-lien against 1/7th of her soul, and first round draft options on any eventual children she might have. This is not what took the time, though – the bottleneck was with the crew signing the carts back in. This is a university that can build and deploy actual food-delivery robots capable of navigating sidewalks, pedestrians, and automobile traffic, but they can’t figure out how to put a GPS or even a damn barcode on a bunch of 3 x 5 foot carts. No one’s going to steal these, folks. Honest.

On the MRI side, once the HTR was properly loaded, unloaded, reloaded, and in line to return the cart, I came home and drove SOBUMD to her appointment in some magnets. In fact, it was just her foot, but I saw none of this as I waited in the waiting room. For the most part, I had it to myself, so that wasn’t so bad.

Once complete and in possession pictures of the inside of her foot, which I may or may not include in this year’s holiday letter, we realized we were quite hungry. The nearest food was Sweetwater Tavern, which checked many of our boxes – good food, dependable, and less than a 2-minute drive. Putting thought into action, we popped over and walked in, as walk-ins, at 7:47 pm.

It was, in fact, a Saturday night, and we were unannounced. It was, in fact, packed. There were people waiting outside. There were people waiting inside. There were people waiting pretty much all over the place. We assumed there would be some bit of a wait.

“Party of 2? Do you have a reservation with us tonight?”
“We do not.”
“Okaaaaay,” says the maitre ‘d, looking at her computer, “the first available seating I have for you will be around 9pm. The wait is around an hour and 15 minutes. Is that OK?”

Obviously, that wasn’t going to be OK, we were already hungry and not well positioned to stand at the bar for 75 minutes – between having her foot in a boot and her foray into sobriety, going on a year now, SOBUMD is decidedly not standing at a bar for any length of time. Besides, the HTR’s university food-delivery robots can beat that time. We stumped back to the car to update our dinner plans. It was now 7:53 in the evening.

“That’s funny,” she said, “This reservation app on my phone says I can book a table for two at 8pm. Hold on.” Click. Click. Click click. “Go back in there and tell them we have a reservation.”

“Party of 2? Do you have a reservation with us tonight?”
“We do, for 8pm.”
“Okay,” says the maitre ‘d, looking at her computer, “would you like inside out outside seating?”
“First available would be great.” It was now 7:55 pm.

At one minute past 8pm, SOBUMD and I were ushered to our table, total elapsed time, 14 minutes – during which we had walked in, walked out, discussed 5 other local restaurants, and proved to the maitre ‘d that we own smartphones. I conjectured that this was, perhaps, a ploy on the part of Sweetwater Tavern to keep out the phone-less riffraff, those poor undesirables who might fail to post #photos of their #dinner to their Instagram accounts. (SOBUMD much more practically conjectured that they’re probably just idiots, but I prefer to look deeper.)

I am left to wonder if any restaurant, so encumbered and in thrall to its technology that it will turn away hungry patrons who are literally standing inside their establishment seeking sustenance, in favor of potential diners who might click their way past the front desk, can long survive. Had SOBUMD not happened to check the app – after we had returned to our car, engine idling, ready to take our hunger and our wallets elsewhere – we most certainly would not have spent our money at Sweetwater last night. Had I been alone, I would have been long gone – I’m much more a Luddite than she is.

As it happened, we enjoyed our respective meals, paid the check, and walked out just at 9pm. (Ironically, this was also the exact time the HTR finally reached the front of the cart-return line.)

“Hey, hon?” I said as we left.
“Good news! Your table’s finally ready.”