The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

All About That Spice.

As every summer approaches its end there’s a chill and a thrill in the air, a spicy tang, a bittersweet tinge that makes the shorter days a little brighter and the longer nights a little softer. It’s a time to savor, to reap, or maybe sow, or even knit if that’s your thing. It’s a time to drink in what life has to offer. In short it’s pumpkin spice season.
Pumpkin spice season runs from September 15th through November 30th.
Pumpkin spice was invented in New England and was used as a form of currency for more than fifty years.
Pumpkin spice is a non-proprietary blend of cinnamon from Sri Lanka, nutmeg from Malaysia, ginger from India, and allspice from Jamaica because only tropical imports could make a large mutant gourd palatable.
Pumpkin spice is an oxidant. Or anti-oxidant. Whichever is the good one.
Pumpkin spice should never be consumed by itself but can be part of a complete breakfast when combined with other foods—say, olive loaf.
Pumpkin spice has been gluten free since rehab.
In recent years pumpkin spice has been gaining popularity in Britain, gradually supplanting the much more traditional turnip spice.
Your friends have your back. Pumpkin spice has your front.
Spoiler alert: it was pumpkin spice the whole time.
Pumpkin spice is an EGOT winner. Twice.
Pumpkin spice is a scientifically proven cure for the common epizootic.
Pumpkin spice enhances glazed doughnuts and causes glazed eyes.
Pumpkin spice knows all your secrets.
Combining pumpkin spice beverages with pumpkin spice candles can cause severe burns.
Pumpkin Spice is the only one of the Spice Girls still touring.
Consuming large amounts of pumpkin spice will give you the ability to fold space and time, facilitating interstellar travel. Watch out for sandworms!
The elements of pumpkin spice were first isolated in 1955 at UC Berkeley by a janitor and part-time physicist named Herb.
Your feelings toward pumpkin spice are not reciprocated.
Pumpkin spice knows all the words to “Louie Louie”.
When you gaze into pumpkin spice pumpkin spice gazes back into you.

Four And Aft.

It’s been nearly four years now since I finished chemotherapy. So far there’s no sign of it returning, which is good. I never want to go through any of that again, and I don’t take the fact that I’m healthier now lightly even though there were too many things I took lightly at the time, too many things I regret.

My last day of chemo, September 22nd, 2014. wasn’t the end of my cancer treatment—and technically it’s never-ending since I’ll need checkups and scans for the rest of my life, but it’s the anniversary I’ve chosen to mark because chemo was unlike any other part of the treatment, unlike anything I was prepared for. The first day I went in for chemo, in early July, I was terrified. What would it be like? What was the process? The clinic I went to put patients in individual rooms and as we passed by one with a bed I wondered, should there be straps? Will they knock me out, cut me open? Well, I thought, as we passed machines and bags of fluid and needles and nurses in crisp uniforms, it’s too late to ask now. I wanted to ask sooner but I also didn’t want to bother anyone, the same reason I put off going to the doctor about the pain in my leg that had been keeping me up nights for at least a couple of months, or why I didn’t even notice the swelling that was also a symptom of cancer, a symptom that, if I’d noticed it sooner, could have been treated with surgery. I could have skipped chemo entirely but I had to go through three rounds of getting toxins pumped into me because of the toxic combination of taking my health for granted and not wanting to worry anyone.

Last day. Don’t let the smile fool you.

When I was diagnosed my wife stepped up and took on a lot more responsibility than she should have, partly because she’s worked in the medical field and has a lot of experience and knowledge and partly because I acted like a complete jackass.

There’s a saying that tragedy plus time equals comedy. Most of us, I think, apply the word “tragedy” to epic events that affect large numbers of people, but tragedy can be quiet and personal too. Cancer was my tragedy and went into it joking. People would ask me about my diagnosis and I’d say, “It’s a funny story…” In the cancer clinic nurses would come in to give me injections and I’d ask, “What are today’s specials?” Or when one of my IV bags was empty I’d page them and ask for a refill. My second day of chemo I came in with the same IV from the day before, for convenience, and when they start giving me my cocktail—“Could I get three olives and a little paper umbrella?”—I got an intense burning in my arm and tolerated it for about twenty minutes. It wasn’t a macho I-can-take-this attitude. It was the I-don’t-want-to-bother-anyone attitude. When I finally told a nurse she had to consult another nurse who explained that irritation sometimes happens if they use the same vein two days in a row. It wasn’t anything to worry about but she had to remove the needle and stick another vein. In that first week I noticed my jeans were getting tight but I assumed that was normal and didn’t want to bother anyone with questions. It was my wife who noticed my right leg was swollen and told the doctors who believed it was probably just excess fluid but sent me in for an ultrasound anyway to rule out anything serious. When I started my second of three rounds of treatment I made jokes about losing my hair and chemo being boring because I didn’t want anyone to know how stressful it was to spend hours sitting alone with a needle in my arm. Sometimes I had to go to the bathroom, dragging my IV stand with me, and once wandered so far away from my room I couldn’t find my way back. A nurse recognized me and asked if I was lost. I laughed and said, “No, I’m taking the fifty-cent tour,” because I wouldn’t admit I was scared and confused. One morning when I was waiting to start treatment a nurse came out to tell me my white blood cell count had crashed and all I thought about was whether I’d still be able to go out to a baseball game while they checked with the doctor to find out if I could continue treatment with a compromised immune system. When I went out in the sun I developed a red, itchy rash and ignored it. My wife noticed and contacted the clinic to find out if sensitivity to sunlight was something to be worried about. It wasn’t, but my own lack of sensitivity was and resulted in a pattern I’d keep going through. It was a pattern of telling myself I didn’t want to bother anyone only to end up causing a lot of unnecessary trouble. It didn’t end when the chemo did either. I developed migraines which I tried to hide because I didn’t want to bother anyone. It turns out all I needed was medication but even at the time I asked myself, what if they’d been a symptom of something worse? And it’s taken me almost four years to understand just how deep, and dangerous, my denial was. It was rooted in a very firm delusion that if I pretended nothing was wrong nothing would be wrong, which, in hindsight, I know was making things worse. Contrary to the saying about tragedy, time, and comedy my cancer experience has gotten less funny as it’s slipped farther into the past.

The fourth anniversary may not have the same cachet as its odd neighbors but this one is still significant because I’m glad the cancer is gone, I’m glad it’s over because, in spite of the way I acted, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t exciting, and most of the trouble I caused could have been avoided if I’d been more responsible, which is why, yes, I wish I could do it all over again.

The Boss Would Like A Word With You.

Rough drafts of the saying “If you have time to lean you have time to clean”:

“If you have time to sleep you have time to sweep.”

“If you have time to flop you have time to mop.”

“If you have time for relieving you have time for receiving.”

“If you have time to sit back you have time to get on track.”

“If you have time to rust you have time to dust.”

“If you have time to cavort you have time to sort.”

“If you have time to stare at the walls you have time to make some calls.”

“If you have time to recline you have time to get back on the line.”

“If you have time to be urbane you have time to train.”

“If you have time to engage in oratory you have time to do inventory.”

“If you have time to contemplate your life choices you have time to pay some invoices.”

“If you have time to look up the history of the soda jerk you have time to go and get back to work.”

“If you have time to buy tickets to the theater you have time to clean the break room refrigerator.”

“If you have time for leisure you have time to measure and yes I am going to pronounce it that way.”

“If you have time to plan your vacation you have time to finish some last minute projects before your vacation.”

“If you have time to carouse you have time to something something plows.”

“If you have time to stand around the water cooler you have time to go and get my watch a new battery at the jeweler.”

“If you have time to lounge you have time to scrounge. Up some work. Go scrounge up some work. Get busy before I dock your pay for laughing at me.”

“I’m going to be in my office playing Minesweeper. Look busy in case anyone comes in and thinks you’re a-sleeper.”





Who Am I To Judge?

So I’ve been called up for jury duty, or at least I have to report to the courthouse to be considered for jury duty, part of a great American tradition of allowing people to be judged by a group of their peers. I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers, although, really, I’m not sure who my peers are exactly. When they made me they broke the mold, and I wish I hadn’t still been in it, but that’s another story. This is actually the second time I’ve been called up for jury duty. The first time I was able to get out of it with the excuse that I had cancer, although I was asked if I could postpone my cancer for a later date. This time, though, it’s federal jury duty, which is not only a whole different ballgame, it’s a different league. First they sent me a letter. Then they sent me an email to remind me I’d gotten the letter. Then one day I was in a coffee shop and a guy walked by me and said, “Hey, don’t forget to report for jury duty,” because they not only know where I live; they know where I hang out.
I know most people are annoyed whenever they get called up for jury duty which is another reason I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers—it doesn’t seem to work on the defendant’s behalf if their fate is being decided by twelve people who’d rather be somewhere else—but I’m kind of looking forward to it. It’ll be a break from my usual routine, I’ll hopefully get to hang out with some interesting people, and maybe even get a part in Twelve Angry Men, but updated and more gender-neutral, so it’ll be Eleven Angry People and me over in the corner saying, “Sorry, I know I’ve got my notes here somewhere.” At least I can be sure that if I have to serve on a jury and we’re all sworn to secrecy about the case I won’t have any trouble keeping my mouth shut. Admittedly I have trouble keeping my mouth shut most of the time but there are things I just won’t talk about and other things I prefer to talk about and unless the case involves a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a pirate, a dog with his foot in a bandage, a horse, and a grasshopper all walking into a bar I’m very unlikely to even want to talk about it, let alone spill what the stenographer heard. A friend I worked with once complained that I never seemed to know any office gossip and I was a little offended that it didn’t occur to her that maybe I knew tons of office gossip. Maybe I was privy to a million little secrets whispered to me in the privy by people who mistook me for someone who cared. Maybe the reason no one ever heard any office gossip from me was because I don’t go around blabbing things told to me in confidence. That’s the thing about secrets: you never really know who’s good at keeping them until you tell one to someone who isn’t.
To get back to the subject of getting out of jury duty a guy I work with told me he’d been called up for jury duty six times, which makes me wonder if he pissed off some petty official in the justice system or if it was just random chance that his number came up so often. Or maybe there was something about his name that made someone think he’d be an excellent jurist or that just drew attention, a hypothesis I could test by creating an alter-ego named Horatio M. Worthyperson and seeing if he gets called up for jury duty. Anyway this guy I worked with told me he always took a book with him and never got picked to serve. “So they don’t want readers,” he said. I find it hard to believe he was the only person there passing the time with a book and I also know he’s a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft so I suspect it was what he was reading more than that he was reading that made the lawyers pass him over.
The fact that most people want to get out of jury duty seems to me to say something really positive about human nature: however much we judge each other on a daily basis most people, given the opportunity, would rather not be responsible for deciding another person’s fate. Or maybe that says something really terrible about human nature that most people, given the opportunity, would rather skip out on exonerating the innocent and holding the guilty accountable. Or maybe it says something entirely different about human nature—that we’re lazy, or, alternatively, that we want to be good citizens but realize the law is complicated and nuanced and worry that we’re not up to the challenge of treating a case as responsibly as it deserves. Or maybe it’s another possibility that I haven’t even thought of. Yeah, I can tell I’m gonna be really popular with my peers.


Not Far From The Tree.

It’s not quite Fall in the northern hemisphere but already the days are noticeably shorter. The mating calls of the crickets, cicadas, and katydids are louder with the fierce urgency of the late season. The sky is more blue, the mornings are more crisp, or that just might be the drugs kicking in. Soon it will be harvest season. All these combined to prompt the following pop quiz: Apple variety of classic American burlesque performer?

1. Granny Smith

2. Lily St. Cyr

3. Beverly Hills

4. Birgit Bonnier

5. Mamie Van Doren

6. Royal Gala

7. D’Arcy Spice

8. Sally Rand

9. Carolina Red June

10. Chesty Morgan

11. Gypsy Rose Lee

12. Pacific Rose

13. Paula Red

14. Pink Lady

15. Yakety Sax

16. Ginger Gold

17. Golden Delicious

18. Ann Corio

19. Honeycrisp

20. Honey West

21. Kerry Pippin

22. Jayne Mansfield

23. Fanny Brice

24. Al Lewis

25. Roxbury Russet

1-5: Like the crickets, cicadas, and katydids your mating calls are louder at this time of year.

6-10: Cider? You hardly knew her!

10-15: Your tassels are showing.

15-20: You really like them apples.

20-25: You’ve spent more time in burlesque clubs than Morey Amsterdam.


So the NFL has its first male cheerleaders, supporting the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams–favorite team of Tom Being Tom— which I think is a fantastic thing. I’m all for gender equality and when the cold weather comes I believe the women who’ve worked so hard to become cheerleaders will appreciate that now they too can wear itchy polyester slacks and sweaters. It’s about time the NFL made this change. College football teams have had male cheerleaders since, well, at least as far back as the 1920’s—it wasn’t exclusively for women, especially back in the day when most colleges weren’t coed. And I feel like I was kind of an accidental trendsetter because I almost tried out for the cheerleading team when I went to McMurray Middle School from seventh to eighth grade. Granted it wasn’t intentional. In the first week of school there was an announcement made over the intercom that anyone who’d like to be a school “Spirit Booster” was welcome to sign up. I had no idea what a Spirit Booster was but it sounded like a fun thing. And my Scout troop used to compete with other troops in the area for something called the Troop Spirit Award, given out to the Scouts that had the most fun, and I was always up for a good time and found that getting my fellow Scouts to laugh and tell jokes and tunelessly sing stupid songs was a great way to get out of boring stuff like tying knots, digging latrines, or putting up tents so we could get out of the rain. Being a Spirit Booster also sounded vaguely theatrical and I was disappointed that my school didn’t have a drama club. MacMurray did have a stage at one end of the gym, but it was kept permanently curtained and never used. Even during the year-end ceremonies a microphone stand was set up in the middle of the gym floor. I still have no idea why the stage was never used but I think it was because the school principal believed Satan was behind anything theatrical. He was an extremely eccentric character—the principal, I mean, not Satan–named Aloysius Waddell. He was a hundred and eight years old, stood six-foot-six, and had to wear special lead shoes because he weighed only ninety-three pounds and a gentle breeze could knock him over. We’d only get glimpses of him in the afternoons when he stood at his office window watching us leave, his beady black eyes turning independently of each other, like a chameleon’s. I only got to see him up close once when I was sent to his office and walked in without knocking and found him pouring paint thinner into a coffee mug, which was a whole different kind of spirit boosting, but that’s another story.
Anyway I was the only boy who showed up for Spirit Booster tryouts and even though they were short a team member the teacher in charge informed me they didn’t have any itchy polyester slacks, only itchy polyester cheerleader’s outfits and even if I could pull off a miniskirt it would be better for everyone if I didn’t pull one on, and really I lost all interest when I learned that being a Spirit Booster meant I’d have to go to every football, basketball, and baseball game.
In ninth grade I went to Overton High School which was much bigger but still didn’t have a drama club, mostly, I think, because of a lack of budget and interest and, after seeing the school talent show, a lack of talent, so a friend suggested I try out for the cheerleading squad. So I did. He told me later he was kidding, but really the joke was on him because I made the team. Being a large school Overton had several cheerleader squads with a hierarchy: the first string were football cheerleaders, the second string were basketball cheerleaders, then baseball, and so on. I really boosted the spirits of the croquet club.

Life In The Sublurbs.

Book Blurbs Written About Blurb, My New Novel Written Entirely In The Form Of Book Blurbs:


-The New York Herald


-The Boston Spectator


-The Tuscon Citizen

“I couldn’t put it down!”

-Stilton Blue, The Seattle Scene


-The Leavenworth Leader


-The Breckenridge Post-Dispatch

“You’ll wonder where it’s going!”

-The Steamboat Springs Chronicle

“Leaves you wanting something!”

-The Ketchum Banner

“A novel idea for a book!”

-The Bismark Telegraph

“The novelty quickly wears thin!”

-The Sturgis Herald

“An unusual premise that keeps you turning the pages, hoping it will eventually develop into something!”

-Emmental Dickinson, The Bay Times (Omaha, NE)

“Not really a novel!”

-The Ontario Olympiad

“Like no other novel I’ve ever read!”

-Caerphilly Wells, The North Platte Telegraph

“I can’t believe this is a book!”

-Brie Rogers, The Davenport Mirror

“Why would someone do this?”

-The Duluth Star

“About three-hundred pages!”

-Bloodstone Publishing

“About three-hundred and forty grams!”

-Fynbo Shreeve, scientist

“I couldn’t pick it up!”

-Allen Walker, The Catchall

“Just keeps going!”

-Terry Cheshire, The Whitehorse Observer

“Completely messes with your head, and not in a good way!”

-Feta Hampton, The Telluride Post

“The most entertaining drivel I’ve read this year!”

-Red Windsor, The Winnipeg Inquirer

“We only publish reviews of academic non-fiction in the field of biology!”


“I keep it next to the toilet!”

—S. Clemens, author of The American Claimant

“Floats well!”

-Boaters Digest

“Responsible for an outbreak of diphtheria!”

-Tiverton Tribune

“Reminiscent of Finnegan’s Wake, and by that I mean completely unreadable and people will only refer to it to sound pretentious!”

-The Ely Telegraph

“Makes you look at aardvarks in an entirely new way!”

-Annapolis Reader

“Opened up a trans-dimensional portal that I fell into and now can’t escape! Please send help!”

-Terry Weiss, The Marfa Bugler

“You might want to read it!”

-The Dorset Times-Picayune

“Potential best-seller.”

-Poughkeepsie Plain Tribune

Coming next year: the sequel, Disblurbing The Peace.

Back To School.

The biggest lie I was told as a child was that school was preparing me for a career. I don’t mind having had to learn a lot of stuff that I haven’t had to use. A basic understanding of science, economics, history, and culture make me a well-rounded person and a killer at Jeopardy!, at least sitting on the couch at home. I can rack up thousands of dollars and imagine just how wealthy I could become if they’d let me compete in the annual kids’ tournament so it doesn’t matter that I’ve completely forgotten what the quadratic formula is and what it’s used for. The problem, one I’m reminded of every year when kids go back to school, is that school wasn’t like working at a job at all. Well, there are some resemblances. Depending on where you work you might have a cafeteria where you go and get lunch every day, although chances are you don’t have to deal with a bully who takes your milk money because those kids all grew up and went into the telemarketing industry. And in a lot of jobs there are breaks for holidays. They’re just a lot shorter than they were when we were in school, and the main thing, the most important thing, is that there is no summer recess. Summer was all we looked forward to when we were in school, except for those weird kids who really liked school and grew up to be actuaries.

I’m not saying I want a three-month vacation every year, although I wouldn’t turn it down either. What I really remember fondly, aside from having a three month vacation every year, is that feeling of going back to school when summer was over. It was a time when I felt energized and excited, like my whole life was going to change for the better. I’d start school saying to myself, this is the year everything changes, this is the year I will get straight A’s, turn in every assignment on time, and be like one of those kids who actually likes school, but not weird about it because I don’t want to be an actuary. This is the year I will become such a model student I’ll be set on the path to Harvard and becoming president of the Lampoon, because I was an ambitious and worldly eight-year old. Every new school year was a chance to sweep away everything that happened last year and start over with a clean slate–oh yeah, this year, I’d say to myself, will be the year I stay after class and clean the slates!–or at least a nice new notebook that this year, I’d tell myself, I’ll fill with actual schoolwork and not terrible song lyrics and cartoons of my teachers turning into Lovecraftian monsters. And I stayed naively optimistic about turning over a new academic leaf well into high school. There was the year when, instead of a notebook, I got a set of folders, a different color for every subject. On the first day of school we were sitting quietly doing nothing because our homeroom teacher, Mr. Dobson, was still recovering from his two and a half-month bender. Well, I was sitting there memorizing the first twenty digits of pi, and a friend of mine who was very artistic, asked if he could decorate one of my folders. “Sure,” I said, and handed him the red one. “This one’s for English.” So a few minutes later he handed it back to me covered with pictures of punks and goblins and demons and a squid riding a motorcycle, all under an elaborate banner that said “I ♥ Urine Soaked Bread” and I swore I would kill him when I stopped laughing, but since I figured I’d be the only one to see it I kept it. Then my English teacher announced that she wanted us to keep our work in folders and once a week we’d have to turn them in so she could make sure we were keeping up with our assignments. And I could have switched folders or gotten a new one but instead I just handed in the red one. She didn’t say anything about it. The next week she didn’t say anything about the portrait of her sprouting tentacles out of her skirt either, although she did write in red marker on the song lyrics, “Sounds like third-rate Pink Floyd,” but that’s another story.

Anyway, I miss that fresh and excited feeling of starting over, of potential greatness, even if it was followed by an inevitable crash that left me feeling like I’d ruined everything, had no clue what was going on, and would never succeed at anything, which usually hit about halfway through the second day of school.

Under The Sea.

Source: Wikipedia

When I tell people I’m a fan of Aquaman they laugh and say, “Nobody’s a fan of Aquaman.” Who’s been buying his comic books all these years then? I want to ask but then I remember in the ‘80’s there was a comic book buying bubble when every comic would double or triple in price within a week of hitting the rack and some people were buying everything. Anyway I have an older friend who started collecting comics when he was a kid in the ‘50’s and I said to him that I’d like to see an Aquaman movie. “Aquaman’s just not a strong enough character,” he said, and that’s when it hit me that I’ve always been a fan of the idea of Aquaman even though I’ve never read an Aquaman comic. I don’t know what villains he fights, although plastic, oil tankers, and whaling ships are probably high on the list. I didn’t read comics at all when I was a kid, really. My parents didn’t object to comics—as far as I know they weren’t fans of Estes Kefauver—but I didn’t know where to find comic books. I grew up in the suburbs and if there was a corner drugstore with a comic book rack then it was not only far out of even my wide-ranging explorations but it was a drugstore we never went to. Even my neighborhood friends who had comic book collections had inherited them from older relatives. My main exposure to comic book heroes was through cartoons, and even there Aquaman was mostly absent. He was part of the Super Friends but it seemed like he showed up so rarely he was more of a Super Acquaintance or even a Super Remind Me Where We Know That Guy From.
When my friends were old enough to drive we’d travel across town to one of the comic book shops, which were a new discovery for me, but the comics I collected were mostly new indie titles and I didn’t think to pick up Aquaman comics because I didn’t want to dive into an established comic. It wasn’t because, as my friend said, he’s not a strong enough character—even with those green tights and bright orange pullover. I didn’t know anything about his character and it’s not as though any superhero’s identity has to be fixed. And it’s not because of the running joke that Aquaman’s powers are that he can breathe underwater and talk to fish. Those are actually some pretty impressive powers and anyone who doesn’t think so is missing that the Earth’s surface is mostly water.
The oceans are where life originated and even after the first multicellular life appeared, some time between 1.2 billion and 900 million years ago, it was only 500 million years ago that the first organisms came out of the water. The oceans are the source of all life on Earth and life on Earth still depends on it. And yet for most of human history we’ve literally been skimming the surface of the oceans. What we knew of deep sea life came from what fishermen brought up or the occasional specimen that floated up because it was dead or dying. There was a common belief in the Middle Ages that there was a whole undersea society of fish people, that everyone on land had an aquatic counterpart, which was easy to believe because there was no evidence to the contrary and it was also fun to point at a knight eating a large piece of swordfish and yell “Cannibal!” but that’s another story.
The first real submersibles date from the late 1700’s, but when Jules Verne first published 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in 1870 the idea of a submarine like the Nautilus was still science fiction. In 1930 the first bathysphere was designed and built by the engineer Otis Barton, assisted by the naturalist William Beebe. It was a hollow metal ball on a string–not exactly high tech, although it was specially built for going deep. Before taking a ride themselves they sent it down on an unmanned trial run and got a grim reminder of how dangerous ocean pressure is: the craft sprung a small leak and when they opened the hatch a strong jet of water shot out over the deck. After patching everything they made their first nervous descent to 803 feet. They may not have been the first people to descend to that depth but they were the first to make it back alive. Beebe described creatures of the deep, never before seen in their natural habitat, that were so weird other naturalists thought he was making them up and they were disappointed there were no fish people even though it meant they could eat salmon with a clear conscience.
Aquaman’s first appearance in comics was in November 1941, almost a year before Jacques Cousteau would secretly test the first open-circuit scuba gear which opened up a little more ocean exploration and promised more but even now, even with specialized equipment, human divers are limited to a few hundred feet. It wasn’t until 1960 that the bathyscaphe Trieste, piloted by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, made the first dive to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, so far down that if you cut off Mount Everest at its base and dropped it down there its peak would be a mile under water. It’s so deep, so far from sunlight, that it was assumed nothing could live there, and yet there is life–even seasonal life affected by what drifts down from above. Decades later we’ve explored more of the ocean but it’s still difficult to get down there. More people have walked on the surface of the Moon than have been to the Challenger Deep, and the only way that depth record can be broken is if somebody goes down there and digs a hole.
Aquaman can go anywhere, to any depth, at great speed, and come back up without having to stop and decompress. And he can talk to fish while he’s down there because he doesn’t need any bulky equipment blocking up his face. Still think he’s too lame to be a superhero?
Yeah, I think Aquaman is cool because I love the ocean and love to swim and wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid, but there’s something else. We’ve finally started to get greater cultural and gender diversity in superheroes but Aquaman adds ecological diversity in a way that’s subtler and smarter than that unbelievably stupid Captain Planet cartoon of the early 1990’s that is currently resting where it belongs, in a hole at the bottom of the Challenger Deep. And Marvel Comics has its equivalent of Aquaman–his fish person–in Namor Of Atlantis, who’s an interesting character, a brooding anti-hero who wreaks havoc on landlubbers because of our mistreatment of the oceans, but then Namor isn’t human. He’s immortal and laughing in the face of death loses its punch if you’re not in any danger of dying. Aquaman, at least originally, was the child of a scientist and his mastery of the oceans is a throwback to the water that first gave us life, and that we still depend on. Aquaman reminds us that what happens in the sea affects the land and vice versa. When we harm the oceans we are the villains of our own story.
And, by the way, there’s an Aquaman movie coming.

Aesop’s Prequels.

The Fox Tries Some Grapes

The Stag offered the Fox a bunch of grapes.

“Hey, I’m really full and don’t want these. You want some?”

“No thanks,” said the Fox. “I really don’t like grapes.”

“Come on!” snorted the Stag. “What do you mean you don’t like grapes? Everybody likes grapes.”

“Well I don’t,” said the Fox. “So clearly not everybody likes grapes.”

The Stag threw the grapes down. “Look, I was just trying to be nice. You don’t have to be a jerk about it. You say you don’t like grapes, fine, don’t eat the damn grapes then.”

“Fine!” yelled the Fox. He bit off a few grapes and chewed them up. His mouth puckered at how sour they were but he forced himself to smile anyway.

“Good, aren’t they?” said the Stag.

The Fox nodded, suppressing the urge to spit chewed up grapes in the Stag’s face.

Moral: Sometimes you just have to eat the grapes.

The Grasshopper & The Ant

The Grasshopper was a hard worker who diligently prepared for the future. From morning to night the Grasshopper collected food and cleaned house. One day, carrying home a heavy parcel, the Grasshopper bumped into the Ant who dropped its load of seeds wrapped in a leaf.

“I’m sorry,” said the Grasshopper, putting down her own parcel and helping the Ant gather the seeds.

“I don’t have time for this,” muttered the Ant.

The Grasshopper placed more seeds on the Ant’s leaf.

“It must have been hard work collecting these. Why don’t you take a minute to rest?”

“No time to rest,” said the Ant, collecting the rest of the seeds. “We have a saying: If you rest it’s the death of the nest.”

The Grasshopper held up a seed. “You really should take a break once in a while.”

“No breaks,” said the Ant, snatching the seed and wrapping it up with the others in the leaf. “We’re born, we work, we die.”

After the Ant left the Grasshopper sat and thought for a long time. Finally she stood up.

“I’m never going to be like that.” She turned toward home. “And I really need a drink.”

Moral: What are you busting your ass for if you’re not going to enjoy life once in a while?

The Tortoise & Friends.

The Hedgehog looked to the Rat who looked to the Goose who looked to the Tortoise.

“So,” said the Hedgehog, “we’re all agreed. We’re sick of his bragging, we’re sick of hearing about how fast he is, and we’ve got to take him down. We just need to decide who’s going to run the race.”

The animals all looked at each other.

“Well,” said the Rat, “there’s only one of us who hasn’t raced the Hare and lost.”

“Fine,” said the Tortoise. “I’ll do it. I just have one question. Who’s gonna slip him the sleeping pill?”

Moral: Fill in your own answer here.

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