Etymology and hitting the fan

My dad did not use “those” words, as a rule, and so it was with some embarrassment that he told the joke.

I had purchased a 45 rpm record at a 10% cut-out sale called “When It Hit the Fan” (because I liked the label, I think – I was a kid) and I didn’t understand the context. So he told me the joke.

A man takes a room on the second floor of a rowdy saloon, and during the night he had an urge for going but didn’t want to walk downstairs through the crowded bar to the outhouse. He saw a hole in the floor and thought, “Ah! I’ll use this handy portal.”

Not long afterward he noticed it had become very quiet downstairs. Curious, he went down and the place had cleared out. “What happened?” he said, and the bartender poked his head up from behind the bar with a harried look on his face.

“Where were you,” he asked, “when the $#!+ hit the fan?”

I realized this morning my dad had passed along a valuable piece of history, the origin of a common vulgar phrase, and so I pass it forward to you to preserve this important knowledge.

Waking more than usual

TEN HOURS of sleep in the last 24, including 8.5 hours straight before waking at 5 a.m. Who is this stiff and aching guy plopped in the blue chair waiting for coffee? Wait, I need caffeine? Really?

So: Poisons are cleared from my brain, and what am I thinking? What should I do with a clear brain? “Clear away the clutter in this room!” Come on, that’s what I think normally. So, not much different, just clearer?

… (I write some thoughts to myself about books and audiobooks, and I write a poem. You saw the poem yesterday if you were here.) …

It takes a few minutes for the coffee to brew, and then, in a last flurry of gurgling, the pot is full of hot, dark brown water. Just a minute, I’ll be right back.


There. I haven’t even had a sip yet, but the world seems better already.


I am. I think that’s the biggest difference after a full night of sleep: I have a greater consciousness of being here. The fog has lifted more than usual, and certainly more than it had yesterday afternoon, when I drove home feeling drowsy and surrendered to the bed shortly after I came home, let the dog out and in, and took off my shoes. That accounts for the other 90 minutes of the above-mentioned 10 hours.

Resolved: Maybe I need to go to bed by 9 every night.


“Resolved: Maybe”? Do you hear yourself?

You are resolved or you are not. There is no maybe.

Page 70

I’m scribbling on Page 55 of the current journal, and I just took a minute to number the upcoming pages through 70, even though under normal circumstances it may take a week or so before I need Page 70.

I wonder what I’ll be thinking when I get to Page 70? I wonder what I’ll write? Of course, the future person who finds this journal can just turn there now and see, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to page back and see what it was that I wrote when I got there — but for today, it’s the future.

The main reason I number the pages in advance is I’ve found I forget to do so, and I’ll be writing along and see that I don’t know what page I’m on — so lost in the scribbling that I didn’t notice I was writing on an unnumbered page.

The numbers don’t matter until I need to go back and find something and make a note so it’s easy to find again: “Oh, that little piece about page numbers is on Page 55.”

Notice I said “is” on Page 55. I almost wrote “was,” but then I realized that it “is” on Page 55 and always will be, because that’s where I put it.

Now I’m really starting to wonder what I’ll be writing when I hit 70.

Connecting without an intermediary

The old ways were about waiting to be found, waiting to be discovered, all of us diamonds in the rough looking for our big break.

The new ways are about climbing on a platform and eliminating the “middle man,” going directly into the act, whether someone tells us we’re ready or not, and maybe we’re rougher and less polished than if some intermediary had discovered and polished us up, or maybe we’re more real for the lack of polish: Maybe we’re more appealing warts and all, just as long as there aren’t so many warts that it’s distracting.

If I say, “Do you know what I mean?” and you don’t, then there’s still work to do — maybe. Maybe you don’t get it but the people I want to reach will. The only sure way to find out is to keep working and keep trying to make a connection until the connection is made — you and me across the void, discovering we’re not alone after all.

Keep doing

I had a dream where I was at a political convention, talking with an 80-something former governor who was thinking about running for governor again, and he was animated and delightfully surprised that people seemed to be excited about the idea, not dismissive.

I was hesitant to add my support because being governor is such a big job and age is a thing, but then again, if you have the energy and your mind is still there, why not keep going as long as you can?

“Do the best you can for as long as you can until you can’t anymore.” I used to tell nervous colleagues that when potential layoffs were hanging over our heads, except I would phrase it as “until they tell you that you can’t anymore.”

But in this freelance and gig economy world, this give-yourself-permission world, people have figured out that they don’t have to wait until someone says they can do it, and they don’t have to stop when someone tells them to stop.

Eventually the layoff people came for me and told me I couldn’t do my thing anymore, but I kept doing it, just not for them — for me, and for you.

Making a list

“You should carry a notepad and pen around wherever you go,” Red said. “In fact, I’ve started using the Notes feature on the iPhone.”

The subject was short-term memory retention. I worry more than I should about being absent-minded. Every person of a certain age starts to do things like walk into a room and forget what they came for. But it seems to be happening with greater frequency, and more than once a day I have a Homer Simpson “DOH!” moment when I remembered something I was going to do and had to retrace my steps.

So I brought the notepad along when I went to shower and shave and such. It was great! I wrote down things like “bring the new box of kitty litter downstairs” and “come into work early on Monday” and “check the status of that upcoming trial,” and I wrote down what the scale said and that we need body wash, and it was so good to write it down so I’d remember all of it.

I got dressed and came in here and fired up the computer and got ready to copy all the notes into appropriate places and take immediate action where appropriate.

Then I reached for the little notepad and realized I left it in the bathroom.

Now I’m back and ready to go down the list. Hang on a minute, I have to take the kitty litter to the basement.

I find a grain

“Search for the grain of truth in other opinions,” Richard Carlson suggested this morning as I continued my slow stroll through Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

Coincidentally, the morning feed brought word that an older person whose opinions rarely coincide with mine had sent out an Independence Day message taking issue with the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

“Equal to what? What men? Only white men? Isn’t it something that they wrote this in 1776 when African Americans were enslaved? … They weren’t thinking about us then, but we’re thinking about us now!”

Well, yes, I said, rather than dismiss the thought, that is probably true. Since those words were penned, the meaning of “all men are created equal” has been reinterpreted to include persons with different plumbing as well as persons with different skin tones than the people who signed the document.

There’s a grain of truth in the statement that in 1776 they weren’t thinking as inclusively as we do nowadays. I suggest, however, that folks who dismiss the ancient author outright consider the revolution those words ignited.

Before Tom Jefferson, that white slave-owning hypocrite, declared that “all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable rights,” it was considered a fact of life that some people are created to be better than the rest of us — monarchs, rulers, masters, bosses in general.

If no one had suggested that all men are created equal, other minds may not have been encouraged to expand the definition of “men” to include women, slaves, and other everyday joes who previously accepted the fallacy that they just weren’t entitled to be in the same room as those hoity-toits in charge of their lives.

And that’s why I believe Jefferson is one of the great minds of history, and why I accept that he was no better than you or me and in fact may have been a scoundrel in some ways, because we were created equal and all of us can be devils and angels.

Those who would dismiss ancient wisdom because it was voiced by ancient hypocrites might do well to consider Carlson’s wise advice to “Search for the grain of truth in other opinions.”

Because so much of who we are and what we believe begins, “All … are created equal.”