Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Mr. Zero-sum Game, that's me.

I cancel myself out. If anything, I do far more harm to my world than good.

My carbon footprint makes Sasquatch's look like Tinkerbell's.

All this car pooling I do, all this allowing of lawn to brown and die, and dumping of buckets of shower water beneath thirsty trees, is folly in the face of all the trees I demand be killed to slake my thirst for paper towels.

Must have paper towels! And napkins! And Kleenex®™ Brand tissues! Former trees of all manufacture! Die! Die! Die, so that I may blow my nose and dry my hands!

Right now — and I mean any right now that you read this — off-white wads of paper towel bank like suspect snow against my elbows on my desk. They fatten every front pocket of every pair of pants and shorts I own, even the rare few draped over hangers. Some are buried deep in the strata, compressed to the size and finish of almonds in the shell.

Wads are probably not in pants now being washed, but I make no guarantee.

In the leather caddy on my nightstand, where men of refinement would keep their keys and moneyclips and chronometers and cufflinks, I have let a hundred paper towels bloom, their petals held intact by snot and the passage of time. It looks like a meringue pie.

I wouldn't, by the way, eat meringue pie or anything else while reading this.

Wads and wads and wads of paper fill a plastic bag in the corner of my office, an untapped and untappable surplus intended for double duty on dog doody walks.

You don't want to know about my car.

Though I use and reuse these fistfuls of paper detritus — runny nose being a chronic side effect, I think, of cold-water swimming — I still grab a new square of tissue or paper towel — preferring the heft of the latter — when I'm near a dispenser.

Apparently I can't help myself.

And haven't been able to for some time. My parents used to remark on our paper towel use on visits to their home — Nancy uses a lot too, though not nearly as much as me … she's an enabler.

Our dog fishes the wads out of the trash and shreds them to pieces across the floor, to shame me for my profligate ways. Or maybe she likes the taste.

Really, don't eat anything right now.

I have a problem needing professional help. Already three wads of paper towel have made their way into my front pockets, and the sun hasn't even risen today.

Handkerchiefs might work. My dad was a handkerchief guy; guys from my dad's generation are. My tour guide characters carry them, though the guy playing those characters still wads up a napkin alongside. Handkerchiefs, in my twisted and unwell mind, seem more disgusting than paper towels.

But recognizing the problem is half the battle, isn't it? Just this morning I reached for a fresh paper towel from the roll, then stopped, knowing I had now seven wads of towel lodged in pockets.

Excuse me — my nose is running.

I can't write about Paris; I can't say anything more or different than anything already said. I can't be helpful or enlightening. What a horrible, wrenching thing, an abomination; it follows the abominations that went on through the Middle East and Africa the week before, the abominations that have passed largely without our notice until a stunning version of it took place in Paris.

We stand by Paris and we are praying for Paris, and we lower our flags to half staff for Paris, when we wouldn't stand by Beirut or Garissa or Sfax or Mogadishu, because Paris is The City We All Think We'd Love to Visit One Day, and those other places not as much.

Their booms and screams and torrents happen beyond our capacity to care.

Now we go to our horrible and predictable corners. We declare war and wage secret missions. Twenty-four U.S. governors say they will not accept Syrian refugees into their states, because if there's a lesson in interning people of Japanese descent during World War II, it's that all Japanese everywhere carried plans to destroy America. Was that the lesson? It was so long ago.

(Alabama's new motto: Whatever's Latin for "The terrorists have won.")

President-apparent Donald Trump pandered pondered that the massacre wouldn't have happened if everybody had been armed, explaining that bad guys glow a certain color when they're doing bad things, so they're easy to spot and kill in a crowd bristling with guns; no fuss, no muss. Third-time's-the-charm-President Jeb Bush said he'd take in Christian refugees but not Muslims. Revisionist-historian-President Ted Cruz says it's not likely Christians would commit terrorism.

Everybody gets to use religion as a cudgel to justify their actions, as everyone has through history, to hate or compartmentalize or steal or kill. Because your beliefs are inferior and you by extension are worthless. My beliefs say so. Or imply so. What's the difference?

We take for granted what we learn on the news, knowing in the past that authorities have been wrong about what they announce, frequently knowingly and willfully wrong, and what they say may not be what really is, which we learn long after, at great and terrible cost.

We once again become afraid to die and afraid to live.

I can't write about Paris.

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