Fifth Conversation With Emily

Emily, thirty-five, a marriage and family therapist, and her son Andre, twelve, live with Emily’s father Neal, sixty-seven, a community college English professor. On a lovely sunny day in May, Emily and Andre arrive home in the late afternoon and find Neal still dressed for work in suit and tie, sitting on the deck with Niko, a big friendly ten-year-old mutt. Andre comes out on the deck to greet his grandfather.

Andre: Hi Poppy. We didn’t think you’d be home yet. (sits in an adjoining deck chair) We got Chinese takeout to celebrate Mom’s big success and cheer me up. We got Kung Pao Chicken and Snow Peas with Black Mushrooms and Shrimp Chao Fun.

Neal: Sounds fabulous. What’s made you so blue?

Andre: We just had my interview at the Waldorf high school and they don’t want me.

Neal: Why not?

Andre: Well, it’s not entirely true to say they don’t want me, but they are adamant I can’t finish high school there unless I first go through Waldorf Eighth Grade and all four years of their high school.  

Neal: Because?

Andre: It’s a different system than public school. A different way of learning, and since I’m only twelve they would want me to become accustomed to the Waldorf ethos and have their entire high school experience which they say has nothing to do with how smart you are. It’s more about psychic and spiritual growth specific to my age, which actually sounds pretty good to me, but… I just want to be done with high school.

Emily: (coming out on the deck) I explained he’d been largely homeschooled and skipped four grades, but they were adamant he should do five years with them.

Andre: So I think I’m going to home school for another year, pass the high school equivalency exam, and then take classes at the community college. I can’t possibly survive another year at Woodbury High. It’s like a prison. The classes are idiotic, and Desmond and Caroline are my only friends, and we’re just a pod of little freaks there.

Neal: I’m sure you’re not just little freaks there. But this is momentous news. And it coincides with my news.

Emily: What’s your news?

Neal: (gets up) Before I tell you, and before you tell me about your great success, I’m going to change my clothes and have a beer. I got home five minutes before you and I’m still in the throes of wonderment.

Emily: I’ll get you a beer. You want anything Andre?

Andre: Yeah. I’ll have a beer, too.

Emily: How about some kombucha?

Andre: With a shot of Kahlua.

Emily: Stop.

Andre: (follows her into the house) In Ireland kids my age drink beer.

Emily: Yes, but we don’t live in Ireland.

Andre: We should move there. Or France. I’d love a glass of wine.

Emily: Fine. I’ll give you a little glass of wine.

Andre: (excited) Really?

Emily: Emphasis on little. As in tiny.

Andre: Oh my God. (shouting) Poppy! Mom is giving me a tiny glass of wine.

Neal: (from his bedroom down the hall) Excellent. Sip don’t gulp.

Andre: (to Emily) This is so exciting.

Emily: And it will not be a regular thing.

Andre: No, no, of course not. Absolutely never more than once a day.

Emily: We are speaking of the occasional ceremonial taste.

Andre: How exotic. Shall we burn some sage?

Neal: (arriving in sweatshirt and loose trousers) Yes. Let’s burn some sage to usher in the new era of our lives.

Emily: (handing Neal a beer) New era? Tell us more.

Neal: Well… Andre home schooling again and… (pauses momentously)

Emily: And?

Neal: Shall we return to the deck? Such a lovely day.

They carry drinks and an old ceramic bowl full of sage out onto the deck and set the bowl on the table. Andre lights the sage and passes his small glass of red wine through the smoke.

Andre: Blessings on the new era.

Emily: Tell us, Papa. The suspense is killing me.

Neal passes his bottle of beer through the sage smoke and takes a drink.

Neal: There is a very good possibility that five weeks from today I will teach my last class as a full-time professor at the community college, and possibly my last class ever.

Emily: (shocked) What? You just told me a few days ago you wanted to teach until you were seventy-two.

Neal: That was before Janet Escobar, the charming new president of the college, assembled the eleven members of the faculty who are over sixty-five and asked us to please retire now rather than later. Generous severance packages were offered, and save for Archie Fitzgerald who called Janet an ageist idiot, we all agreed to consider her offer.

Emily: Well… it is ageist.

Andre: And I was going to take your classes.

Neal: I suspected something like this was in the works when Janet took the helm. Nine of the eleven of us are long past meaningful functioning, and I knew the new administration was keen to youthify the faculty.

Andre: Youthify? Is that even an actual word?

Emily: No. But you know your grandfather loves to verbify nouns.

Neal: A noble calling. Verbification. A field of endeavor you might want to consider, Andre. Not lucrative, but deeply fulfilling.

Andre: So does this mean that someone resembling you will be free to be my homeschool teacher for the next year or so? And teach Desmond and Caroline, too, if they want to homeschool with me?

Neal: If I retire, yes.

Emily: Is Karen retiring?

Neal: Oh yeah. She’s thrilled. So are most of the others. And the more I think about it, the more appealing retirement sounds, though after the meeting, Janet took me aside and whispered, “But not you. Please. Not you.”

Emily: What’s that about? Does she fancy you? She’s a bit young for you, but she is a dish.

Neal: I agree about her dishness, but I seriously doubt she fancies me. No, she had to include me, and Diana, in the cattle call or it would have been a terrible insult to the others, asking them to retire but not me or Diana.

Andre: Who is Diana and what’s a cattle call?

Neal: Diana is the Drama department incarnate in a single ageless wonder, and a cattle call is a show biz term that refers to an audition open to everyone, not just a select few.

Emily: So that means you don’t have to quit if you don’t want to.

Neal: No one has to. But the offer is there and it’s a very good one. And I do grow weary of correcting essays written by people who spent twelve years in school yet still don’t know how to write complete sentences, let alone coherent paragraphs.

Andre: Why don’t they want older people teaching at the college?

Neal: Because they think most of us are out of touch with the nineteen and twenty-year-olds composing eighty per cent of our student body. And if you knew the nine teachers they want to get rid of, you would agree with their assessment.  

Emily: I’m stunned. I don’t know what to say.

Neal: Yeah, I know. It’s a shock. (to Andre) How do you like the wine?

Andre: The taste is dreadful, but I’m enjoying the… the… oh what’s the word? (giggles) I can’t think of it.

Neal: Buzz?

Emily: Are you dizzy?

Andre: No. I’m… everything seems to be kind of flowing together. The various separate things are not so distinct from each other as they were in my sobriety.

Emily: I think you’ve had enough.

Andre: Oh come on, Mom. I’ve only got another sixteenth of an inch to drink. But I see why they say don’t drink and drive. I wouldn’t want to ride my bicycle feeling like this, let alone drive a car. I do see the appeal though. Certainly smooths the rough edges.

Emily: Listen to you. What rough edges do you have?

Andre: What do you mean? I’m a twelve-year-old about to enter my senior year of high school. I’m surrounded by giant goons who push me around whenever the fancy takes them, and gorgeous young women who think I’m adorable or invisible or merely freakish. I hate school and school takes up most of my life. Is that enough rough edges for you?

Emily: I’m sorry, dear. I really am. We should have had you in Waldorf from the get go but we didn’t have the money then. And now we have the money and they want you for five years.

Neal: Well then I’ve decided. I’m retiring from the community college and will henceforth be your teacher until further notice.

Andre: Great! This is the happiest day of my life.

Neal: Mine, too. I was sick of teaching there.

Emily: You weren’t sick of teaching there when you went off to work this morning whistling a happy tune.

Neal: I felt safe teaching there. I was afraid not to be teaching there.

Emily: (going inside) I’m gonna set the table. I’m starving.

Andre: (to Neal) But first we’ll have the summer off. Right? We’ll start our formal studies in the fall.

Neal: The truth is, Andre, you could pass the equivalency exam now. You could have passed it two years ago. So what is it you formally want to study?

Andre: Desmond and Caroline and I are all keen on Music, Literature, and Cuisine. And Frisbee. And Geography. And Cinema. And Biology and Astronomy and Anthropology and Theatre, of course.

Neal: We shall ponder the possibilities and create a curriculum including Mendelssohn, Miles Davis, Dickens, Wharton, Kazantzakis, Shakespeare, and Larousse Gastronomique as cornerstones of your educational edifice.

Andre: Sounds wonderful, Poppy. But for now… I don’t feel very well. Is that the wine?

Neal: Yes. That is your body wanting water. Alcohol dehydrates. Go have a big glass of water and then we’ll take you-know-who for his you-know-what.

Niko perks up, suspecting a walk is in the offing. Andre goes inside to get a drink of water and Neal has a little cry before he joins Emily and Andre in the kitchen.

Emily: (to Andre) Feel better?

Andre: (belching) Now I do.

Emily: Charming. (to Neal) You’re sure you want to quit, Papa?

Neal: I’m sure.

Emily: Well then I’m glad. If anyone deserves a nice severance package, you do.

Neal: Maybe I’ll take us all to England.

Andre: To Ireland where I can legally drink beer! And then drink lots of water.

Emily: Sounds wonderful.

Neal: But first I must gird my loins for another five weeks of labor at the place where I have toiled for thirty-seven years. Astounding but true.

Andre: Three times my age and a year.

Neal: Shall we walk?

Andre: We shall. You coming Mom?

Emily: I want to, but I’m starving.

Andre: Eat a handful of nuts. That’s what you always say to me.

Emily: Good idea.

Emily has a handful of nuts and they go for a walk, Andre holding Niko’s leash as they stroll along.

Neal: And now my darling daughter, tell us of your great success.

Emily: Well two things happened today that made me glad I became a therapist, not that I wasn’t already glad, but there are days and weeks, as you know, when I’m not sure I’m doing anybody much good.

Andre: But not today.

Emily. No, not today because one of my clients told me she has finally ended the abusive relationship she’s been in for eleven years, and she said she could never have done it without me. She was radiant and happier than I’ve ever known her to be.

Neal: Bravo! That outshines my news by a mile.

Andre: And that’s not all.

Neal: There’s more?

Emily: There is. A couple I’ve been counseling for two years who came to me unable to speak to each other and about to be divorced, asked me today if I would come to their remarriage ceremony.

Neal: That’s fantastic. (gives Emily a hug) I’m so proud of you.

Emily: I never thought they’d stay together, let alone fall in love again. But they really have. They just love each other now.

Andre: How did you do it, Mom?

Emily: After our first session, during which they almost killed each other, I saw them separately for several months, then together and separately for several more months, and then together for the last four months. And they both learned to talk about their feelings and really listen to each other, and they stopped comparing themselves to each other and to other couples, and they really got to know each other and like each other, and they fell in love again.

Andre: Wow. Maybe I’ll become a therapist.

Emily: I thought you wanted to be an actor.

Andre: I do. Caroline and Desmond and I are going to have a theatre company and be a famous team of movie stars. We’ll write and direct our own movies and plays, and I’ll be a therapist.

Neal: Good idea. Why limit yourself to just one occupation?

Andre: We also want to have an organic avocado farm and a café featuring entrees from around the world.

Emily: Oh to be so young again.

Neal: Wouldn’t it be just grand.

Emily: To think the world has no limits.

Neal: And start a rock n’ roll band.

Andre: And now that I’m done with high school…

Neal: Who knows what you might do?

Emily: We only know that when we get home…

Andre: We’re having Chinese food.


What You Do In Ireland


Meet the Musicians

sunflower center

Mrs. Musician, Irish through and through, her short silvery gray hair adorned with a just-picked pink rose, espies Mr. Musician at the far end of their bountiful garden—a quarter acre of vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit trees, and berry bushes surrounding a deep pond—an urban Eden they share with tortoises, frogs, fish, and a robust population of songbirds and lizards.

A handsome man with brilliant green eyes, his wiry hair mostly gray now, Mr. Musician is on his knees, thinning baby carrots. He and Mrs. Musician have become excellent gardeners since they retired from performing seven years ago—carrots, garlic, potatoes, apples, and raspberries their especial specialties.

“Darling,” calls Mrs. Musician, wishing her husband wouldn’t wear his good black corduroy slacks when he mucks about in the dirt, “there’s someone named Murdoch here to see us. Says we know him. He looks familiar, though not pleasantly so, if you catch my drift.”

“Of course we know him,” says Mr. Musician, his accent vaguely Latvian on this fine sunny morning. “And though we are unanimous in declaring him a wonderful person, we wish he would go away.”

“Shall we tell him we’re unavailable?” she asks, her Irish accent shifting in the direction of Mr. Musician’s vaguely Latvian. “He seems harried though entirely bald.” She giggles. “Sorry. Couldn’t resist.”

“Bald? Murdoch is bald? Gads. The red-haired giant sans locks. Time flies. Or he shaved his head. In any case… Murdoch.”

“Oh that Murdoch,” sys Mrs. Musician, who knew all along who Murdoch was. Is. “Of course. If we imagine red locks on the hairless dome, the Murdoch we used to know comes clear to us now.”

Mr. Musician sighs. He was so enjoying mucking about in the dirt, and now he can only think of Murdoch. “Tell him we’ll be in shortly. We’ll have coffee in the study. He drinks his black. I’ll take a splash of something white in mine.”

“We thought we were off coffee,” she says, frowning at her husband. “Didn’t we agree it makes us jittery and impatient?”

“That was before we had coffee with Murdoch,” says Mr. Musician, rising nimbly. “Thereafter we’re back on.”

“But we haven’t had coffee with Murdoch yet,” says Mrs. Musician, half-annoyed and half-amused by Mr. Musician’s tendency to comingle the present with the future. “And why should we go back on when we were so glad to be off?”

“Dear,” he says, suddenly beside her, though how he traversed twenty yards in a twinkling is beyond her, “we need the bitters.”

She thinks about this. No. She feels about this, and her feelings agree with Mr. Musician. “I’m not sure we have fresh beans. We haven’t had coffee in years.”

“Your prescient son Maxwell brought fresh beans yesterday,” says Mr. Musician, embracing his pleasantly plump wife. “We smell divine. What is that scent?”

“Mint,” she says, blushing attractively. “With a touch of cloves. We washed our hair this morning with mint-with-a-touch-of-cloves shampoo.”

“Poo, indeed,” says Mr. Musician, nibbling on Mrs. Musician’s delectable earlobe. “When we’re done with Murdoch, we’ll to bed. Yes?”

“Rogue,” she says, her voice dropping an octave. “We thought we’d never ask.”

Mr. Musician is a head taller than Mrs. Musician and most people would say he is slender rather than skinny. Size is tricky, though. For instance, Murdoch is a huge fellow, twice as big as Mr. Musician, yet were you to come upon Mr. Musician and Murdoch in Mr. Musician’s study you would feel certain that Mr. Musician was several times larger than Murdoch, which is also true, and that’s what we mean about size being tricky.

The Musicians have been married for thirty-eight years. Mrs. Musician was twenty-nine when they wed and she is soon to be sixty-eight. Mr. Musician is older than his wife, though how much older no one knows, not even Mr. Musician. Age can be as tricky as size. Nine out of nine people would surmise that Mr. and Mrs. Musician are the same age, which they are, though in strictly chronological geologic time they are years apart.

Mr. Musician’s spacious study sports a pale turquoise ceiling suspended fourteen-feet above a dark pecan floor. A gargantuan window looks out on a terra cotta terrazzo overhung by a massive oak tree, the silver-gray trunk of which resembles an abstract sculpture of a life-sized elephant.

Preceded by the scent of mint-with-a-touch-of-cloves shampoo, Mrs. Musician carries a large wooden tray into the study, the tray bearing three enormous white mugs brimming with coffee. She finds Mr. Musician in his black tuxedo, white shirt, burgundy bowtie, and green flip-flops, standing at the gargantuan window gazing out at the massive trunk of the overhanging oak. Is her husband, Mrs. Musician wonders, gazing at the oak or at the puffy white clouds in the cerulean sky? Or has the question posed to him just now by Murdoch thrown him into such a dense thicket of thought that he is seeing nothing?

What an attractive man thinks Mrs. Musician, smiling as she imagines gamboling with Mr. Musician as soon as they dispense with Murdoch. Mrs. Musician is wearing a billowy white blouse, a floor-length black skirt, red sandals, and a rhinestone tiara.

Murdoch, huge and round and bald with a huge round face and a huge round nose and huge brown eyes, is wearing a burgundy turtleneck tucked into baggy brown trousers, his high-top tennis shoes red, his wonderfully round cheeks beaded with sweat. He sits sideways in a wooden throne of an armchair, tapping his right knee with the fingers of his right hand while chewing earnestly on the fingernails of his left hand. He does seem harried, though his face is blank.

“Coffee,” says Mrs. Musician, stating the obvious.

Murdoch takes one of the mugs in his huge round hands and gulps the scalding brew as a man dying of thirst would gulp a cup of cold water. “Delicious,” he says, returning the empty mug to the tray. “May I have another?”

“Please,” says Mrs. Musician, smiling perfunctorily. “I brought two for you and one for Mr. Musician.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” says Murdoch, chuckling as he takes hold of a second brimming mug. “Delicious. Italian? French? Hawaiian? Colombian?”

“The bag was labeled Etruscan Gold,” says Mrs. Musician, frowning in alarm as Murdoch downs the second mug in one prodigious gulp. “A gift from our son.”

“Maurice or Maxwell?” asks Murdoch, eyeing the last loaded mug. “May I?”

“Maxwell,” says Mrs. Musician, nodding acquiescence. “I’ll make another pot.”

“Did you say coffee?” says Mr. Musician, turning away from the window, a bewildered look on his angular face, his accent distinctly Cockney.

“Be just a minute, darling,” says Mrs. Musician, arching a telling eyebrow as Murdoch returns the third empty mug to the once-promising tray. “Demand got the better of supply.”

“Allow me to assist you,” says Mr. Musician, following his wife to the kitchen. “We’ll be right back, Murdoch. View of the oak especially elephantine this morning.”

“Is it?” says Murdoch, moving to the window. “I’d love some coffee. If it’s not too much of a bother.”

“Do you know what he just asked me?” whispers Mr. Musician, catching up to his wife as they cross the threshold into their lovely kitchen—late morning sunlight slanting through seven south-facing windows imparting a poignant ambience to the room of many blues.

“What is the secret of life?” she guesses, filling the grinder with golden brown coffee beans. “Were the three wise men really kings or wandering minstrels?”

“Guess again,” says Mr. Musician, popping one of the golden beans into his mouth and chewing thoughtfully.

“Why are the rich so greedy?” She spoons the grind into the steel filter and ignites a flame beneath the rotund little boiler, their coffee-making machine an ancient Italian contraption designed for making espresso over an open fire. “Is there life after death, the soul imperishable?”

“You’re getting warmer,” says Mr. Musician, popping a few more beans into his mouth. “Hints of chocolate.”

Mrs. Musician sighs, for she knows very well what Murdoch asked of them—Murdoch’s coming foretold in a vivid dream. “Can anyone be truly free if another is enslaved?”

Mr. Musician nods. “And?”

“Will we return to the fray?” says Mrs. Musician, kissing her husband’s cheek.

“That is the question,” says Mr. Musician, nodding solemnly. “Exactement.”

sunflower tendrils


Social Security

(This article originally appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser July 2010)

“The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.” Mark Twain

Today’s mail brought my annual report from the Lord High Chamberlain of the Exchequer informing me that unless I get hyper busy and super lucky, too, and start making gobs of money so the government can tax those gobs and dump loads of loot into my Social Security account, my later years, so-called, will be mean ones, as in Not Fun. True, the scribes toiling for SS (how Naziesque that acronym) are quick to point out that no reasonable human can hope to survive on SS payments alone, that such payments are merely intended to supplement the vast sums they seem to assume we have tucked away in other income-producing niches impervious to downturns in interest rates, stock markets, housing markets, and all other known markets currently falling like lead weights dropped from leaning towers everywhere.

Indeed, the verbiage attached to the SS notice trumpeting the diminutive stipend awaiting me when I crest sixty-six, puts me in mind of the surreal fiction of Calvino and Ionesco and Pinter, their ironic humor barely softening the horror of being eaten alive by the bureaucratic mouths of our overlords. For instance, here is a badly written but highly revealing passage of SS doggerel.  “If you retire early, you may not have enough income to enjoy the years ahead of you. Likewise, if you retire late, you’ll have a larger income, but fewer years to enjoy it. Everyone needs to try to find the right balance, based on his or her own circumstances.”

Try. Did you hear them? Try to find the right balance. Let me see. I know I left the right balance around here somewhere. Darn. Where did I put it? I so want to enjoy it, and by “it” I think the SS copywriter means the larger income, but (likewise) he may mean the years ahead, while I mean the right balance. Based on my circumstances. And just what are my circumstances? Well, I’m not sure. They keep changing. How strange. Are they supposed to? Keep changing? My circumstances?

Hey, maybe I could get a high-paying job writing SS brochures, a job with comprehensive government-subsidized healthcare and automatic contributions to my SS account. Here’s a sample of what I could write for them. “Life isn’t fair, you pathetic pauper. Likewise, you’d better figure out how to beat this crooked system or you’re gonna end up in deep doo doo.” Catchy, no?

When I was in my teens and twenties I knew several elderly people living adequately on no other income but the money they received from the Social Security Administration. True, those were the days when a visit to the doctor might cost you fifteen dollars, and drugs, the few we had, were cheap, food was inexpensive, rent was low, and gasoline was twenty-five cents a gallon. Five per cent was about as low as interest rates on a regular savings account ever went, so if you banked some of your money, you could earn a little extra, kids were encouraged to save, to learn about saving, property taxes were reasonably high to pay for things like schools and police and fire departments; and health insurance, for those who bothered to buy it, was inexpensive. That’s how things were. Honestly.

But then things were not like that. And they are not like that now. I wonder why we and our leaders don’t go back and study, say, 1959, and see how things were structured then in terms of taxes, all the taxes, and expenditures, all the expenditures, and draw up plans to revert to some or all of that kind of taxing and spending. I don’t really wonder why. I know why. Because in 1959, corporations paid much higher taxes than they do now, and wealthy people who owned expensive houses in ritzy neighborhood paid reasonably high property taxes and were not allowed to entirely avoid paying taxes through all sorts of shelters and dodges, and a good many of the things we bought were made in America by Americans. How could we go back to that? Oh, and they had these funny things called government regulations that made it illegal for banks to lie and cheat and steal, so we wouldn’t have a repeat of the Great Depression. Imagine.

I got my first savings account in 1959 when I was ten. I got it, the savings account, because for Christmas my grandparents gave me a check for ten dollars. This was the first check I’d ever received, and it, the check, was for such a vast sum my parents thought I would be wise to open a savings account at Wells Fargo. So I did. And the very friendly woman who helped me open my account gave me a brochure written especially for children, possibly written by the father or mother of the writer who today writes the Pinteresque SS doggerel, but probably not. I remember the brochure had blue ink on glossy white paper and included a chart showing how much money I would earn if I left my ten dollars in the bank for ten years at seven per cent interest compounded daily. Are you sitting down? One hundred and sixty-five dollars.

I wrote about my new savings account and my nifty passbook and the glossy brochure and my awesome earning power in a Thank You letter to my grandparents, and my grandmother wrote back, “Imagine how much you will have if you add ten dollars a year to your account and that earns interest, too?”

Lest these memories seem maudlin and uselessly sentimental or even stupid, my point is that most of us so-called Baby Boomers grew up thinking that money saved became more money to be used later on when we needed it. The money. And that’s how we imagined Social Security operated, too. Money we put into the system would mature over the years for our eventual use. Yet here on the front page of the SS doggerel sheet accompanying the proclamation of the teensy monthly sum the government proposes to send me when I retire is the following vague and scary and infuriating statement.

“In 2016 we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2037 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted and there will be enough money to pay only about 76 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits. We need to resolve these issues soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for future generations.”

I’m not making this crap up. Somebody, possibly a college graduate, was paid good swiftly deflating money to write that vague and scary crap, and it, the crap, was sent to every sucker in America with a Social Security number. And who exactly is the We who needs to resolve these issues? And what are those issues? Let’s see, I may have a list of them, the issues that need resolving, wherever I misplaced my right balance based on my ever-changing circumstances.

Could SS be implying that you and I have wasted trillions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that you and I have spent several other trillions bailing out banks that won’t pay even one per cent interest on my savings, let alone seven per cent? Are they suggesting that you and I have given untold trillions in subsidies to big earth-gobbling corporations? I think they are. I think they are implying that we, you and I, are the cause of all those unresolved issues they neglected to be more specific about. And that’s why my puny little stipend is in danger of declining and disappearing before I even get any of it. The stipend. Because I can’t find the right balance.

Maybe I should see a doctor (though if I do they’ll almost certainly raise my already usurious health insurance rates.) But maybe it, going to a doctor, would be worth it (the certain increase in my insurance rates) because the obscenely profitable pharmaceutical cartel may have developed a drug for it. Our imbalance. Something to instill equilibrium in the corpus and stimulate the memory so we can remember where we left the right balance and the list of issues we (you and I) need to resolve to keep SS from going belly up, but likewise not so stimulating a drug that we remember to tax the b’jeezus out of the super wealthy.

Todd’s taxable creations are on display at