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You're traveling through a wondrous dimension of humor and shadow, of imagination and mist. Welcome to my website! Wander around a bit and see what’s up. If the mists get too thick, well, some things look better in the fog anyway. So come back often to The Joe Zone – and bring your friends. That way, if you get lost, or marooned here, at least you’re together. Not that people get marooned here. Very often. For very long. Signpost up ahead, your next stop – The Joe Zone!
As you may have noticed, my blog is called “Reflections in a Misty Mirror.” Today, let’s reflect on mirrors.
Mirrors are wonderful devices, and have a smidgeon of magic in them. The mirror reflects back to us an amalgam of what we see, what we want to see, and a strange, unverified concept called reality. I mean all mirrors, not just the “mirror, mirror, on the wall” kind. There may be the occasional bad actor mirror, such as at an arcade, but for the most part, they do us quite a service.
I began to notice this when I reached the age when sags and bags and wrinkles and kinks began to distort my once-youthful face. Come to think of it, Saggs, Baggs, Wrinkles and Kinks sounds like a law firm in a decrepit part of town. But I digress. Not that digressing’s a bad thing. In fact, some of my best thoughts occur during digressions. Such detours also distract the reader from the fact that I have nothing interesting to say.
Digressing from my digression, I had noticed that photographs of me seemed to indicate that I had recently passed away. As time went on, photographs seemed to indicate that I had passed away, been buried for three weeks, and exhumed. But I still looked great in the mirror. Maybe rather gray, and a little tired, but certainly decades younger than that stiff in the photos.
With April 15th upon us, Americans are once again facing the income tax dragon. Time to don the armor, draw our swords, and battle the beast. Due to calendar peculiarities this year, the deadline is actually the 18th of April, the day that hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year – well, never mind. Paul Revere is so passé.
A recent survey (not conducted in my head, as are most Joe Zone surveys) showed that over 50% of Americans pay someone to prepare their tax returns. Think about that – this means it costs us money to pay Uncle Sam the taxes we owe. Does the phrase “insult added to injury” come to mind? How many of us would pay someone to recruit a stranger to come to our house and take our money? That, in effect, is what we’re doing.
Ben Franklin, long before there was a federal income tax, said that time is money. How much time do you spend on income taxes? Be sure to include recordkeeping throughout the year, gathering records to prepare our tax return, time spent procrastinating, hours huddled whimpering in the corner in dread… And all that before we fill out the return, or meet with a third party who will do it for us.
For all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote those words in 1856 in his poem “Maud Muller.” Many people understand the regret and sorrow that unfulfilled dreams of youth can engender. A corollary that I hear expressed is “I should have been born when…” Fill in the blank as suits – before this, after that, when men were men, and so on. A corollary of that corollary (would that be a corollarylary?) is, “I should have been born someone else.” I’ve been known to use that one.
What’s at the core of all this regret? Why aren’t we happy with our station in life? In my case, I feel like I was dropped off at the wrong station, and the train disappeared down the tracks with a belch and a billow of smoke. I may look at this station and not like it, but am I being fair? Is it really such a bad little station? Am I focusing on the negative? I mean, just scrape off that peeling paint, add a fresh coat, sweep the dusty wooden floor, or tear it up and replace it with marble, and add a skylight or two and a Starbucks and a couple of valets and an ATM, and…
Well, maybe I’m spiraling down the metaphor hole, but I think you see the point. Some of us may have a tendency to take the good things in our lives for granted. Nevertheless, I find myself pondering (and those who know me know I love to ponder) what life in a different time period might have been like. Would we have flourished in a different epoch?
One of my daily pleasures is to check what happened on this date in history. It’s fun, informative, and almost painless. There are many resources available for finding such facts. The newspaper (which I still read – mainly because it uses words instead of emojis) has a “highlights in history” column, and there are numerous sites online that cater to history or trivia buffs. The disturbing thing is that the sources often don’t agree, either on who did what, or on which day they did or did not do it. Of course, Americans don’t agree on anything these days, including who won Best Picture, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.
Recently, I was innocently scanning the historical facts for something juicy, when this startling item leapt off the page and smacked me in the head:
On this day in 1824, J.W. Goodrich introduced rubber galoshes to the public.
Much to the chagrin of American school children of the 20th century, as it turned out.
As regular Zoners know, we often toast and roast the arrival of a new season. So once again we fire up the Joe Zone nuclear-powered microscope, and objectively examine the hated season of winter, that abysmal time of year when death would be welcome relief. I can feel myself curling up like one of the dry, lifeless leaves shriveling and shivering on my lawn, under six inches of ice.
Of course, winter isn’t all bad. Some people actually like winter, and in fact look forward to it. They enjoy the cold, the snow, the lack of light, the misery, the depression, the soul-sucking numbness that winter brings. Scientific study has shown that many of these people have actually had their brains freeze into a solid block of ice. Either that, or they live in Hawaii, and just enjoy saying that they like winter.
Welcome or not, the winter solstice occurred Wednesday, December 21 at 5:44 AM Eastern Standard Time, marking the start of winter. Sol, of course, is what we call the sun (at least, those of us on a first-name basis with it), so it’s easy to figure out that the word “solstice” comes from shortening “Sol stuck in ice.” Similarly, “December” refers to the “declining ember” of the sun in the winter sky. English is actually a very easy and obvious language, if we just pay attention.
Writers through the years have, for reasons both innocent and ignoble, employed pen names. Yes, the old nom de plume, a pseudonym, an alias. I hear it beckoning to me. Or do I see it calling me? Either way, I like the idea.
At a writers’ seminar I attended, a well-published author said that it can be wise to take a new name if you have experienced significant failure under your current name. Being well-versed in significant failure, my ears shot up immediately. She warned us to avoid the curse of “stank name,” though she phrased it more gently. Getting published is hard enough without having a name associated with high levels of toxicity. Some authors go so far as to enter the Writer Protection Program, taking a complete new identity, and moving to a new town or planet.
I thought what she said made excellent sense. It’s great advice for both writers and fugitives from justice, who, after all, have much in common. Both are known to skulk about with a furtive countenance, fretfully peering back over their shoulder. Both carry their hunted and haunted look with them like a sack of rubbish they can’t bring themselves to lay down.
So I’ve invested a large amount of time (at least 15 minutes) in search of the perfect writer’s name. The name that guarantees success. The Name Utterly Transforming – which through a fluke of acronym-ism, we seem to be forced into calling the NUT name.
As any Facebook user knows, FB uses unfathomable logic to determine the posts you see on your newsfeed. I suspect that the methodology was developed in conjunction with the CIA, the Pentagon, and a wandering mob of preteens who have had no actual contact with real people.
The first thing I notice about my feed is that it’s obvious that Facebook knows which of my Facebook friends (hereafter referred to as Ffriends) I like the most, and which I deeply regret ever having encountered and hope they can’t track me down at my residence (hereafter referred to as Ffiends). My newsfeed is bulging with maniacal posts from Ffiends, and almost devoid of posts from Ffriends. There are also numerous ads (”suggested posts” – hahahahaha!) for bizarre products and services that mankind has spent most of its million-year-plus existence without. I think I can last a few more years deprived of them.
I am Joe’s socks, and I will be the guest blogger in the Joe Zone today. This will give Joe a bit of a breather. You didn’t realize socks did social media? You didn’t know we were that sociable, you say? It’s all relative. Compared to Joe, his socks are raging extroverts. And if Joe behaves, I’ll let him guest-blog on my site, which is much more popular than his.
I spend most of my time in Joe’s sock drawers. Once the number of socks in a drawer reaches critical mass, a sustaining chain reaction takes place, and consciousness emerges, and it doesn’t matter where we are, except for when we’re on Joe’s feet.
You might think being socks is tedious, but you’re wrong. We live as a collective entity, thinking glorious sock thoughts. But did you know that an individual sock has no consciousness? So when one of us slips through the Portal of Oblivion in the clothes dryer, there is no pain or emotional trauma involved. But a large enough group of socks in your drawer essentially becomes a functioning brain, with each sock being a brain cell.
The Games of the XXV Vacation Olympiad began with the carrying of the mythical Vacation Torch up Interstate 79 in the Joe Zone officially licensed SUV. My wife and I, along with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, were elated to finally be beach-bound. As we approached Erie, we saw ominous storm clouds brewing. Upon arrival at Presque Isle, we used the Torch, with an appropriate dose of pomp and dignity (but mostly pomp – can’t get enough of that pomp), to light the Vacation Flame on Beach 7. A downpour from a mean-spirited thunderstorm immediately extinguished the Flame, but not our spirits. Though I must confess it made them a bit soggy.
Upon relighting the Flame, we launched the first Vacation Olympics event. The entire family sprinted the 100 meter dash across the beach to the safety of a changing station, as a second, even more mean-spirited storm hurled lightning bolts from the sky, and drenched us with apocalyptic amounts of rain. Our fleet and resourceful daughter won the gold medal, for carrying her infant in a protective crouch, while crossing the tape in record time. My wife was unfortunately disqualified, for stubbing her toe on driftwood buried in the sand, and hopping the final 25 meters. Although sand-hopping is a difficult maneuver, it is, unfortunately, not a sanctioned event.
Joe-Pourri is back with the latest news that we see fit, so pull up a digital chair. Whenever news breaks, or at least bends, Joe-Pourri will boogie down the internet runway, to take off and bring you the latest sizzle on events that may or may not actually be happening – just like the major news sources.
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